Hundreds march to save Belsize fire station and oppose London-wide fire cuts
PUBLISHED: 13:04 29 May 2013 | UPDATED: 13:18 29 May 2013
Hundreds of campaigners took to the streets to protest against the Mayor of London’s plans to close Belsize fire station and 11 others across the capital.
Residents, firefighters and politicians came together on Saturday to send a defiant message to Boris Johnson over the sweeping fire cuts proposals, which would also see 11 other fire stations, 18 engines and more than 500 jobs axed across the capital.
More than 200 people joined the march from Hampstead High Street, down Rosslyn Hill and Haverstock Hill and on to Belsize fire station in Lancaster Grove, Belsize Park.
They included Glenda Jackson, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, who said: “People are absolutely opposed to the closure of the fire station, and not just that one, but the proposals across London.
“We should not have to be having to campaign like this to protect such vital public services.”
The protest followed recent revelations that the average fire engine response time in Belsize ward will nearly double if the closure goes ahead, rising from four minutes 37 seconds to seven minutes 59 seconds.
New London Fire Brigade (LFB) estimates, which were published earlier this month, also showed that the cuts will hit Camden more severely than other borough, with response times increasing by a minute or more in six wards.
Six wards will also be pushed outside the LFB’s own average response time target of six minutes.
Cllr Abdul Hai, Camden Council’s cabinet member for community safety, said Camden would “lose more than just one fire station” if Belsize closes.
He added: “These cuts will lead to longer response times and jeopardise Camden residents’ safety. I would urge the mayor to reconsider his proposals by listening to the residents and putting the public first.”
Andrew Dismore, London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden, said: “People are awfully angry about what’s going on. Hopefully Boris Johnson will start to listen to people in London for a change and stop these cuts, which don’t have to be made for financial reasons.
“The money could easily be found to keep the fire brigade going, if that’s what he wanted to do.”
Although he did not join the march, Conservative Hampstead Town councillor Chris Knight also spoke out against the proposed closure this week.
He said: “As far as I’m concerned, I would like to keep the fire station. There is a need for a fire station here. Fire kills people and a few seconds delay in getting a pump to someone’s home makes them a couple of seconds closer to death.”
The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority is currently consulting on the cuts proposals.
A public consultation meeting will be hosted on Thursday at the Camden Irish Centre in Camden Square, Camden Town, from 7pm to 9pm.