By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
A FIREFIGHTERS’ union has welcomed news of new stations in the county – but has questioned a £13m proposal to rebuild the Birkenshaw headquarters.
A financial report by West Yorkshire Fire Authority reveals costings for new stations in Keighley in 2020/21 (£2.2m), Halifax in 2021/22 (£2.5m) and Huddersfield in 2022/23 (£3m).
The authority is looking at “options to redevelop all or some” of the buildings at Birkenshaw, although it is not scheduled to happen in the next four years. Dave Williams, Yorkshire and Humber regional secretary for the Fire Brigades Union, does not believe the service needs to spend £13m on its headquarters, at a time when other services are being cut.
He said: “I don’t think they should be moving this money out of reserves when we could be using it to keep firefighters on pumps and fire stations open.
“I don’t mind money being invested in areas that need investment. Keighley really needs £2.2m spending on it. It is run down. The same with Halifax and Huddersfield.”
He said £550,000 was already set aside to spend on the Birkenshaw site in the coming year.
“Even that is generous as far as I can see,” he added. “Birkenshaw has some of the better training facilities for firefighters in the area already. £13m would buy a lot of bricks and mortar.
“I can think of at least 13 better ways to spend £13m that would make West Yorkshire safer than this plan.”
A spokesman for West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service said the service is conducting a feasibility study into options to redevelop all or some of the buildings at Birkenshaw.
He said: “The buildings on the site are ageing and require excessive maintenance.
“We are looking at how we can provide a suitable and sustainable headquarters site for current and future employees of WYFRS.
“In light of this, it makes sense to consider the possibility of funding this in a number of years’ time. At this early stage, all we are doing is considering how we might ensure that the central support and training facilities at Birkenshaw are fit to take West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue forward into the future.
“No decision has been taken as to how we may best achieve that as yet.”