Topsham to decide whether to purchase its fire station

Community groups in Topsham will be given the opportunity to decide whether it could purchase the fire station site when crews relocate later this year.

The two fire engines based in Topsham will transfer to two new facilities at Middlemoor and the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service’s Headquarters in Clyst St George, with the move taking place before the end of 2020.

Most of the firefighters will transfer, ensuring local knowledge is retained, while recent new recruits from the local area will also support the relocation.

The decision had been made back in January by the Fire Authority, but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the Authority saying these new arrangements mean the Service will continue to have flexibility in providing emergency response cover for Topsham and the surrounding area, and will build greater resilience for Exeter.

Topsham Fire Station
(Image: Devon Live)

Friday’s Authority meeting saw unanimous agreement that before the disposal of the fire station site in Fore Street is put to the open market, a meeting is held to explore whether there was a feasible plan for the community that could be put together that fits within the disposal policy.

Cllr Rob Hannaford, putting forward the proposal, said: “The closure of Topsham was controversial move and a good compromise has been made with moving to the HQ, but I don’t feel that this paper reflects the spirit of the discussions.

“I still think it is worth discussing with the local members and charity sector in Topsham before we go out to market to see if there is a feasible business plan that could be put together.

“The fire station is at the heart of the local community and if there was ever a place to make things stack up, I think Topsham is that place, and they ought to be given the opportunity to do so.

“If it comes back there is not an appetite or it is not feasible, then we go for the best value, but I do think we have to be careful and respect the local community.

“There should be a meeting with the local county and three city council members to explore options around community use before going to the market.”

Cllr Rob Hannaford
Cllr Rob Hannaford

Cllr Sara Randall Johnson, chairman of the committee, said that this wouldn’t mean the site would be disposed at a reduced rate, but to explore the opportunity to see what was out there.

She added: “No decision would be made yet, but this would explore if there is any appetite in community to come forward with a plan that fits within our tight criteria.”

The same meeting had earlier approved a new policy on disposal of land that as a general rule, they should seek to obtain the best consideration (price) that can reasonably be obtained, but that discretionary power to dispose of land at less than the consideration that can reasonably be obtained to be exercised only in exceptional circumstances.

The decision to relocate Topsham fire station and dispose of the land was based on the ability to reinvest funds to enable delivery of the new Service Delivery Operating Model which in turn is intended to enable the Service to effectively and efficiently match resources to those risks identified in the approved Integrated Risk Management Plan.

Devon Live – Devon News