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Belsize Fire Station to shut in early January after High Court challenge defeated

Campaigners in Haverstock Hill on their way to Belsize fire station. Picture: Polly Hancock Campaigners in Haverstock Hill on their way to Belsize fire station. Picture: Polly Hancock

Friday, December 27, 2013
8:00 AM

Belsize Fire Station is set to shut within weeks after a last-ditch bid to block Boris Johnson’s £28.8million cuts plan was defeated at the High Court.

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Belsize fire station. Picture: Nigel SuttonBelsize fire station. Picture: Nigel Sutton

A legal challenge mounted by Camden Council and six other London boroughs against the Mayor’s attempts to axe 10 fire stations, 14 engines and some 552 firefighter posts has been rejected by a High Court judge.

The London Fire Brigade (LFB) announced afterwards that the 10 stations including Belsize in Lancaster Grove – which is nearly a century old – will be closed on January 9.

The legal defeat marks the final nail in the coffin for campaigners who had fought for months to stave off a major cuts programme which is set to hit Camden harder than any other borough.

Paul Embery, regional secretary of the London branch of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), said Mr Johnson will have “blood on his hands”.

“It’s only a matter of time before someone dies as a result of the closures,” he said.

“We think it’s outrageous. You don’t need to be an expert on the fire service to realise that if the closest fire engine is from several miles away, then people face a much greater risk. We always say in the fire service that seconds count, and that’s not a cliché. Seconds really do make the difference between life and death.”

The High Court challenge was mounted after Mr Johnson attempted to force through the closures earlier this year.

The Mayor invoked special legal powers to override the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA), a committee of councillors and London assembly members which runs the LFB and voted to reject the plans.

In May, the Ham&High revealed that the cuts would hit Camden more severely than any other borough, with residents facing the biggest increases in emergency response times.

Firefighters will take an extra minute or more to reach blazes in six of Camden’s wards, with residents in Belsize having to wait an extra three minutes and 22 seconds.

Six wards, including Belsize, Hampstead Town and Swiss Cottage, will be pushed outside the LFB’s six-minute response target.

Cllr Abdul Hai, Camden’s cabinet member for community safety, said he was bitterly disappointed and urged Mr Johnson to “put the public first” and reconsider the decision.

Kieron Cashin, the Belsize FBU representative, said: “Residents will be put in danger by these cuts, massively.”

Andrew Dismore, Labour London assembly member for Barnet and Camden, said the proposals were drawn up to save “pennies” on council tax bills that “nobody will notice”.

James Cleverly, chairman of the LFEPA, said: “I welcome [Friday’s] decision which allows us to remove the uncertainty hanging over our staff and proceed to implementation.”

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