Windsor Fire Station closure threatens historic buildings

A High Court judicial review decision has brought disappointment to the many Windsor people who have over the past 18 months backed their local council’s staunch campaign to save 24/7 local fire-service cover for the town in the face of the County of Berkshire fire authority’s proposed closure of Windsor Fire Station, from 8.00pm to 8.00am each night.

The Royal Borough [of Windsor] had sought a judicial review on the grounds that the consultation with the local community was flawed, was based on historical figures and did not properly assess future risks and demands as a result of continuing population increases in both Windsor and Slough. The council also contended that the consultation process was defective and unlawful because it did not contain enough information to allow people to give ‘intelligent consideration’ or ‘intelligent response’ to the proposal to withdraw night-time cover, and has called on the county’s fire authority to reassess its responsiveness to local people’s views and safety

The presiding judge Mr Justice McCoombe did not uphold the council’s contention that the fire authority’s original consultation was flawed. Cllr David Burbage, council leader, said that while points of law may have favoured the fire authority, the sheer weight of community backing for 24-hour fire cover should force the authority to change its decision; especially since council taxpayers’ money helped to fund the fire service and they deserved to be listened to.

The proposed closure of the Windsor Fire Station, each night is a potentially serious threat to the safety of Windsor Castle, the oldest inhabited castle and probably the most famous castle in the world.

Fires in historic buildings can start and take hold extremely quickly as shown by the serious fire of 1992. The ability of the Windsor Fire Brigade to attend the Windsor Castle fire so promptly, within 1.5 to 2 minutes, was crucial to tackling the fire and restricting the serious damage that occurred. The next nearest fire station is Slough from which it would take a fire engine 15 minutes to reach Windsor Castle losing crucial response time. Such fires typically begin at night, and because they remain undetected for longer become more serious if fire service response is delayed.

It takes 2 years for a fireman to gain a full working knowledge of the layout of Windsor Castle. Will a dedicated team of firemen at Slough be trained and retained for overnight duty? Is there an agenda to close Windsor fire station altogether?

This overnight closure also threatens the many other properties in the heart of Windsor, including historic buildings important for both their architectural merit and association with historical figures: eg The Guildhall, designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Nell Gwynne’s house. Any loss by fire within this beautiful and historic town, which attracts millions of visitors a year, would be a disaster. Windsor deserves better than to be compromised by this scaling down of its fire service.

RESCUE believes that Windsor Fires Station deserves to be treated as a special case, warranting special protection and wishes to add its voice to the many organisations and individuals who are protesting against the proposed partial closure of it.

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