Fire chiefs give fresh assurances over planned new 'Tri Station' for Hebburn, with construction set to begin next year despite rising inflation and the cost of living crisis
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Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service (TWFRS) has already warned it could be forced to make “difficult” cuts next year, unless the government covers the cost of pay rises.
Forecasts have suggested the organisation could face a shortfall of more than £1 million, as well as the cost of living crisis and soaring inflation hit finances.
But bosses have moved to reassure the public about the future of a planned ‘tri station’ in Hebburn, housing firefighters as well as police and paramedics, following the start of work on the scheme last month.
Dennis Napier, finance director at TWFRS, has said the brigade is "totally committed" to the project with funding set aside, planning permission granted and plans to search for and appoint a contractor.
In a statement read at Monday's (September 5) meeting of Hebburn Community Area Forum (CAF), he said: “Separate funding of almost £8 million has been set aside by the authority in its capital programme to ensure that this development can be built to the required standards and is sustainable into the future.
“I can also reassure the public that our key two partners, Northumbria Police and North East Ambulance Service (NEAS), who will both operate from our new purpose-built and state-of-the-art Tri-station, remain fully on board with this unique project.”
The new base, which will be located off Campbell Park Road, replacing Hebburn's ageing fire station at Victoria Road West, will see firefighters, police and paramedics work together on a single site and will also be used by TWFRS for rope rescue training
‘Diversionary works’ are understood to have begun at the site to prepare it for construction, which is expected to start in 2023 and become fully operational by 2024.
Northumbria Police and NEAS are expected to be based in the facility under the terms of an initial 25-year lease.
Mr Napier added the development aimed to keep the people of Hebburn and the wider Tyne and Wear area “safe and protected”.
He added: “When contractors come back that will be interesting because obviously the cost of everything is going up [...] so we wait with bated breath what the cost of the scheme will be.
“But I can assure everyone that the scheme will be going ahead, it’s a principle development for the fire service and the current fire station needs to be replaced.”
The Tri-station scheme has been in the pipeline for years but faced delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic and wrangling over the land for the project.
Planning permission was granted by South Tyneside Council's Planning Committee in July.
The latest CAF meeting saw councillors and Hebburn residents praise the scheme and the ongoing work of TWFRS to make it a reality.
Councillor Wilf Flynn, the panel’s chairman, added: “I appreciate the length of time you have waited to get to where you are.
“You know yourself it’s not going to be easy talking to the contractors, especially when you mention fixed cost.
“But it’s a great facility to come and I appreciate the efforts you have all put in and will still be putting in until it’s actually open”.