Fire Station plan sparks debate

Stornoway Fire Station.
Stornoway Fire Station.

Plans for a major renovation of Stornoway Fire Station are being re-examined this week as the original proposal is proving too expensive.

The option for a modular design - which could involve pre-fabricated units being installed at the site - is now being investigated as an alternative to a traditional build element in an effort to find a workable solution.

The project announced by Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) last year is for a complete renovation of the station on Robertson Road in Stornoway and also for the development of training facilities at a facility at Stornoway Airport

The change of plan for the station brought concerns from councillors at a meeting of the Environment and Protective Services Committee on Tuesday.

Norman Macleod, chair of the committee, said: “It is disappointing to hear that the Service are looking at providing a modular building here in Stornoway. Could additional capital not be looked at to provide facilities here? It is disappointing to see it going back to the drawing board.”

Iain Macleod, SFRS Western Isles manager, said: “It has come back as more expensive than the funding allocated by the Fire Service. The total cost of both projects (station renovation and training facility) is £2.5million.”

He pointed out that this was the single biggest investment in any station in Scotland by SFRS over the last two years.

He said what was important was that all the requirements identified by fire crews in the consultation process would be provided at the updated facility.

Billy Wilson, SFRS area manager, added: “We recognise that there are some concerns around the construction method being investigated by the service but it is important to point out the scale of the money being invested by the SFRS.”

It was also noted that this option could be advantageous as the station would need to remain operational during the construction period.

Stornoway councillor Rae Mackenzie suggested that an alternative site could be looked at but Mr Wilson said the option had already beenconsidered.

He explained: “If you take the fire station out of the town, you have firefighters driving out of the town to pick up the fire appliance and then driving back in, that was one of the positives of maintaining the site at Robertson Road.”

The Service will be looking to take on more firefighters in the Western Isles next month in a recruitment drive.

Currently, there are 37 vacancies in the chain of island stations but Area Manager Mr Macleod said, in reality, they were in a much better position and were providing a quality service of 87 per cent coverage with 16 available applicances.

He said: “ The staffing complement for single fire engine fire stations is set at 12 - that was set by the fire service many decades ago.

“Until the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service carries out a review to say how many are required, against a notional complement of 12 we have 37 vacancies, but the reality is what we need is significantly less than that.”

Mr Macleod urged anyone interested to apply, pointing out that the new recruit training process could be completed in just 16 weeks.

The new training facilities are expected to make it more attractive for people to join the service as they would not have to go to the mainland regularly for training.