Guildford's modern fire station gets the go-ahead
By mattcollison | Wednesday, September 05, 2012, 10:41
PLANS to demolish Guildford's crumbling 1930s fire station and replace it with one "fit for purpose for the 21st century" have been approved.
Guildford's 1930s fire station will be torn down.
An artist's impression of the new fire station.
More than 50 letters of objection were submitted to Guildford Borough Council (GBC) by residents - many of whom argued the Ladymead building was "unique" and should be protected.
But councillors sitting at Tuesday night's planning meeting (September 4) voted by a clear majority to approve Surrey County Council's application to demolish the site and replace it with a modern fire station.
The new station will include eight bays, a new smoke house and state-of-the-art 13.5m drill tower with aerial lift platform training as well as Surrey's first dedicated road traffic collision training area.
The two-floor station will also feature a fitness suite, a canteen for firefighters and 22 car parking spaces.
The proposal includes the demolition of two four-bedroom homes used for social housing, which will be rebuilt before the fire station is operational on a neighbouring site.
Donna Collinson, who has worked as a designer for 25 years, is among objectors who called for the building to be retained.
She proposed the building be preserved for conversion into flats, in a similar way to the old fire station in Dorking's West Street.
She said: "This building is unique in Surrey. Similar buildings from this period have already been listed. This one is presently under consideration for listing by English Heritage."
She added: "No evidence that any consideration has been given for retention of the building for conservation."
But councillor Graham Ellwood said the present fire station was in a very poor condition and was not worth saving.
He said: "The first speaker said it's a unique building, well it's certainly unique because bits of the ceiling have fallen on to fire officers and I'm afraid that is something which can't go on."
He added: "I would not want the safety of Surrey residents put at risk by clauses delaying the building of the new fire station."
Former firefighter councillor David Elms, who was stationed at the Ladymead site, said the present station was too small with firefighters struggling to access the station.
He warned new larger vehicles being deployed by Surrey Fire and Rescue simply would not fit into the present building.
He said: "Appliances are having to reverse in and firemen have less than three inches either side as they reverse vehicles. With the fire appliances in the bay there is hardly room to open the doors.
"We need that new fire station and we need it pretty soon because the lorries ain't going to fit in there."
Surrey Fire and Rescue said a modern station was urgently needed to address the service's 21st century needs.
Chief fire officer Russell Pearson said: "Guildford Fire Station is one of our busiest stations in Surrey and is absolutely key to operations which help to keep Surrey residents safe from harm. Our current needs are not met nor will our future needs be met by Guildford Fire Station. We have a strategy to deploy extra vehicles at Guildford Fire Station which the current arrangements do not allow."
However, Mr Pearson objected to Section 106 proposals which state the new fire station shall not be used until the new homes are ready for occupation.
He said: "Our concern with the clause as it's currently written is that once the social housing is purchased by a landlord the authorities will have no control over the timing of its completion."
Councillor Caroline Reeves, whose Friary and St Nicholas ward covers the Ladymead site, supported the proposals.
She said: "I can understand the concerns over the fact that the fire station can't be used until the social housing is ready for accommodation but at the same time it's very important that we have this replacement ready."
Tim Dawes, GBC development control manager, said the Section 106 agreement was at a draft stage with scope to alteration in its wording.
"It's an important clause in terms of delivering the social housing. If we remove the clause potentially we could be two houses down," he said.
The new fire station is due to be up and running by summer 2013.