Brand new fire station for Horsham approved

Plans for a £21m fire station and training centre in West Sussex have been given the nod by the county council.

Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 5:31 pm

During a meeting on Tuesday (September 15), members of the cabinet gave their unanimous support to the proposals for land at Highwood, on the Horsham side of the A24.

The training centre will prove vital for West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, as it will be able to cater for live fire training – something it currently pays Gatwick Airport to provide – and high-rise training.

Duncan Crow, cabinet member for fire and rescue, told the meeting it was not easy to contain his enthusiasm for the project, adding: “This will be a great facility for the service and will be very welcome indeed.”

Planning permission is expected to be in place by the end of the year.

Once it is given, it will be the end of the line for Horsham’s current fire station, in Hurst Road, as well as the training centre, in Horley, and two buildings either side of Worthing fire station.

All three will be declared surplus to requirements and sold for an estimated £3.8m, – though leader Paul Marshall said none of that money would go to the fire service, being used instead to ‘relieve the burden on borrowing’.

The station and training centre should take around 18 months to build.

Chief fire officer Sabrina Cohen-Hatton spoke about some of the problems identified within the fire service by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate during last year’s highly critical review.

They included live fire training, firefighter safety, and the way the service responded to emergencies.

She said: “We know that we’ve got gaps – we’ve identified those in our Integrated Risk Management Plan – and the new facility at Horsham is going to offer us an opportunity to address some of those issues both now and in the future.

“One of the key areas that we’re going to improve is our incident command capability.”

Dr Cohen-Hatton told the meeting that combining facilities from Horley, Horsham and part of Worthing would reduce operating costs and the service’s carbon footprint, as well as leading to a small improvement in county wide response targets.

The council – like every other authority in the country – is in the middle of a financial nightmare due to the ongoing costs of the pandemic.

As such, there were calls from some for the project budget to be kept tight and for every possible saving to be found.

Deborah Urquhart, cabinet member for environment, asked: “Are we building a Tesla here when an electric mini would suffice?”

Dr Cohen-Hatton pointed out that savings had already been found as the new station was originally going to cost £26m.

The council plans to enter into a contract with construction firm Wilmott Dixon, through the Southern Construction Framework, to deliver the new buildings.

After the meeting, leader Paul Marshall said: “This investment absolutely underlines our continued commitment to training our firefighters, giving them the best resources to undertake their job and shows our commitment to keeping our communities safe.

“We know we are in challenging financial times, especially with Covid-19.

“This council is going through a process to look at our capital programme and a period of ‘reset and reboot’ of our priorities and how we deliver them, but we need to build on the extremely good work being done in the fire service and this shows our commitment in some of the most challenging of times.”

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