Campaigners lose fight against fire station cuts

By John Aston,Press Association
Tuesday 17 February 2009 17:43

Campaigners acting with the backing of celebrities and the tacit support of the Royal family today lost a High Court battle over the partial closure of Windsor Fire Station.

Royal Berkshire Fire Authority plans to withdraw night-time services at Windsor between 8pm and 8am and provide cover from Slough instead.

Windsor crews were among the firemen from the surrounding area who helped the Windsor Castle Fire Brigade, based at the castle, to tackle the Windsor Castle fire in 1992.

Lawyers for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, argued the fire authority's closure decision was "perverse" and there had been an unlawful failure to consult fully and provide the public with sufficient information.

Refusing the council's application for judicial review, Mr Justice McCombe, sitting in London, ruled the authority had acted lawfully in its efforts to achieve "a better use of (firefighting) resources in the county as a whole".

The judge observed that Windsor was the quietest 24-hour crewed station at night-time, averaging three calls a week during night hours.

Although the Royal Family avoids involvement in political controversy, the Fire Brigades Union said various Royals had expressed sympathy with firemen opposing the closure plan.

Celebrities including Sir Elton John, Rolf Harris and Sir Alan Sugar have backed the "no closure" campaign, along with Sir Michael Parkinson and double Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes.

Berkshire Fire Authority had argued the closure plan was necessary as "part of a county-wide programme to improve levels of fire cover where it is most needed".

Windsor and Maidenhead council was ordered to pay the fire authority's legal costs.

Later George Cross, area manager for the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, welcomed the "clarity" of the judge's ruling.

Mr Cross said: "We have responsibility for all the people of Berkshire and we deploy our resources where they are most needed.

"We are pleased this review has found our risk assessment consultation programme to be fit for purpose as this will allow us now to deliver the result we wish to accomplish, which is a safer Berkshire."

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