Fire authority rejects station closures – but Mayor Boris Johnson is to press ahead with plans

Campaigners and firefighters in Clerkenwell took to the streets last Wednesday as the battle to save

Campaigners and firefighters in Clerkenwell took to the streets last Wednesday as the battle to save the station. From right to left: Trevor Froome from Amnesty International (which has offices near the station), firefighters Tom Sloan, Merrick Josephs, and Dave White, and Cllr Raphael Andrews. Picture: Dieter Perry - Credit: Archant

The Mayor of London has vowed to plough on with the closures of fire stations in Islington and Hackney – despite his own fire authority rejecting the plans this week.

Boris Johnson will force through a consultation on the future of Clerkenwell fire station in Rosebery Avenue, Clerkenwell, and Kingsland station in Kinglsand Road, Haggerston, along with 10 others in the capital – the first step towards scrapping them in the autumn.

He is pressing on despite seeing the proposals rejected by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) in a vote on Monday.

Clerkenwell firefighter and Fire Brigades Union rep Neil Walker said: “What’s the point in having a fire authority if Boris is just going to go ahead with these sweeping cuts anyway? Until they actually bring the security in and shut the stations, we will keep on fighting this.”

Cllr Terry Stacy, a member of the LFEPA and leader of the Lib Dem opposition at Islington Council, said: “I’m going to seek legal advice to see if there’s any legal avenues to block Boris after we rejected the plans. It’s ridiculous and it will put the lives of Londoners at risk.”

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) has admitted response times would get slower after the closures, which would leave Islington with two stations and Hackney with three.

The LFB said the average response time would go up by 25 seconds in Islington and by 33 seconds in Hackney, but in both boroughs it would still be about 40 to 50 seconds under a target of six minutes.

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Meg Hillier, MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, said: “The LFB tells us it’s all going to be fine, but if that’s the case, why didn’t they do this some time ago? There are big question marks.

“They are not being very far-sighted. The population of Hackney is growing fast and we need to make sure there are fire stations to cover us in the future. Once we’ve got rid of these stations, we can’t get them back.”

Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury, said: “What’s the mayor for, if not protecting Londoners? I’m not against a proper review, but we can’t just be cutting back on fire stations, engines and firefighters just to balance the books because of some arbitrary sum that has been cut.”

There are currently two engines based at Kingsland while Clerkenwell, believed to be the oldest station in Europe dating back to 1872, has one engine and a specialist fire rescue unit, which last week attended the fatal helicopter crash in Vauxhall.

The plans were drawn up by the LFB in a bid to save £28.8million, after its budget for the next two years was cut by £45.4million by the Mayor.