‘Suitable replacement’ needed before Stevenage fire centre replaced
- Credit: Archant
A “suitable replacement” must be found if plans to replace a fire and rescue training centre with housing goes ahead, according to a leading member of the service.
Jon Smith, head of training at Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Longfield taining centre on Hitchin Road in Stevenage, has spoken to the Comet after outline plans were approved by Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) to build 95 homes on the site in March.
Hertfordshire County Council (HCC), which owns the land, intends to move the Longfield team to a similar facility in Welwyn GC – a site Mr Smith is “unfamiliar” with.
However Mr Smith says the housing scheme – which has only been granted outline planning permission at this stage with a further, more detailed application to be submitted – must be cost-effective and deal with any logistical problems properly if it is to be given full approval.
He said: “In order for us to move out of the current Longfield site, it would be necessary for us to first find a suitable equivalent to replace it. As we are a publicly-funded body it would have to be cost-effective and commensurate with our current level of training provision.
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“Whatever decisions are made we will still be able to continue serving the public and do our job to the best of our ability. Our current facility is of a very high standard which allows us to deliver quality training to our staff and maintain the safety of the community. For these reasons, I cannot foresee us moving site in the immediate future.”
The plans have been criticised by staff at the neighbouring John Henry Newman School.
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Headteacher Clive Mathew said: “Our school is already significantly overcrowded. There are concerns that we may not be able to meet the demand for places in the future. Any future expansion would require more buildings.
“The only space available for the school to occupy is on the Longfield training centre site. This land has been allocated for and commonly used by public services since the original planning of Stevenage New Town in the 1950s – it was previously a primary school.
“I also struggle to see how the road infrastructure will cope with the increased traffic. We already suffer problems with cars backed up onto the dual carriageway at the start of the day – this will only make it worse.”