Downham, Bow and Kingsland fire stations set to close on January 9 after High Court rejects legal challenge

Bow Fire Station in Parnell Road, Tower Hamlets facing the axe in proposed cuts. Pic: Google

Bow Fire Station in Parnell Road, Tower Hamlets facing the axe in proposed cuts. Pic: Google

Three local fire stations are set to close early in the New Year after the failure of a legal challenge to London Mayor Boris Johnson.

The three stations – Bow in Tower Hamlets, Downham in Lewisham and Kingsland in Hackney – are among 10 facing closure on January 9.

The challenge to the cost saving decision to close them was made by the local authorities involved, including Lewisham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney.

In the High Court on Friday,  Mr Justice Foskett rejected the councils’ claim that the mayor’s plans were legally flawed.

The judge had been told that the proposals, which involve the loss of more than 552 firefighter posts and the axing of 14 engines, would be “reckless, wrong and will seriously endanger lives”. But he ruled the process by which the closure decision was reached was lawful.

The Fire Brigades Union has fought the proposed closures, which are part of a drive to save £28.8 million and have led to demonstrations across London.

The London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority said the seven councils had confirmed they will not appeal.

This meant the reductions in fire stations and fire appliances “will proceed as planned, on 9 January 2014.”

Iain Munro, FBU secretary of the Bow Branch, said: “We are down, depressed, gutted, every word you can think of – that’s how we feel at the moment. We feel defeated, there’s nothing else we can do now that the boroughs have announced they’re not going to appeal.

“Firefighters won’t be made redundant but they will go to replace their colleagues who are retiring with no new people being hired. This means they’ll be moved to different stations. In our job, being seconds or minutes late can change a lot and it’s the local knowledge of the ground that can make the difference. It’s easy for them to say nothing is going to change, but there will be big consequences.”

Among the eight fire stations,Westminster, Knightsbridge and Southwark stations sent engines to the Apollo Theatre on Thursday , where more than 70 people were injured when the roof collapsed.

Reacting to the court’s decision, the FBU ‘s London Secretary Paul Embery said: “The Apollo Theatre collapse demonstrates how dependent the safety of Londoners is on the stations that Boris Johnson intends to close.

If the cuts go ahead, the mayor will end up with blood on his hands. These cuts are reckless, wrong and will jeopardise the safety of millions of Londoners.”

Mr Johnson said he was “pleased” that the court had recognised the robustness of the fire authority’s plans.

He said: “I hope that all the parties involved will now draw a line under this and help us move forward and work with the Fire Commissioner to deliver a stable and secure future for the brigade.

Labour London Assembly and fire authority member Fiona Twycross said: “We are deeply disappointed at this decision. It now means that the mayor can force his unpopular cuts through and axe 10 fire stations, 12 fire engines and 550 firefighters.

“This will lead to significantly increased response times to incidents across London.

“These cuts are due to start on 9th January. This is a grim new year’s present for people across our city. Boris should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.”

The other stations facing closure are Belsize in Camden, Clerkenwell in Islington, Knightsbridge in Kensington and Chelsea, Silvertown in Newham, Southwark, Westminster, and Woolwich in Greenwich.


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