Fears that Norwich’s fire cuts will put city’s historic buildings at risk

Lives could be put in danger and Norwich's historic buildings placed at greater risk of fire following controversial plans to cut the number of fire crews in the city, councillors have been told.

Norfolk County Council yesterday approved the �1.5m cuts as part of a new safety plan. As part of the changes the number of fire engines in Norwich would be cut from five to four at the proposed new Carrow Station in Trowse, following the closure of Bethel Street and the loss of 24 jobs.

Both city MPs have expressed concerns about the plans and members of the Fire Brigade Union have also warned that lives would be put at risk.

And Labour councillor Bert Bremner told county councillors that the plans were a 'Tory gamble', which would affect the safety of firefighters and the public, particularly in the Norwich area.

'At the big Zizzi's fire last month in the centre of Norwich there were at least six fire fighting appliances and 40 fire-fighters,' Mr Bremner said. 'Zizzi's was right next to the beautiful Ethelbert Gate, one of Norwich's treasured medieval buildings.

'The first crew to get to the fire was the second Norwich pump, the one Tory Norfolk will cut. What is to replace this second fire engine? The Tories say it is the North Earlham pump manned by part-timers. This fire engine did not go to the Zizzi's fire because they couldn't get a crew! I understand this has happened a few times before, but that information has not been put to councillors.

'The Tory cuts will mean only five fire-fighters are on duty at North Earlham so no speedy arrival of the 'Aerial Ladder Platform' and far greater damage and far greater risk of fire spreading. The Ethelbert Gate would have been at risk.

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Harry Humphrey, cabinet member for fire and rescue, said the changes were possible because the addition of a new station at West Earlham had helped deliver a 33pc reduction in incidents.

'We have got reduced risk, and we have got action being taken with a new fire station at Carrow, which will result in Norwich being ringed by fire stations at Sprowston, Earlahm and and at Carrow,' Mr Humphrey said.