Frustration as new training facility for Peterborough and Cambridgeshire firefighters not signed off

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The decision not to sign off on a new training facility for firefighters has been criticised by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Fire Authority.

The fire authority said Police and Crime Commissioner Jason Ablewhite had previously agreed that it could have a piece of land on the police training site at Monks Wood in Huntingdon for a new, modern and urgently needed training facility for firefighters.

Jason Ablewhite

Jason Ablewhite

The authority, which currently governs Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service, said Mr Ablewhite had previously agreed to the plans but was now refusing to make a final decision.

The delay, it said, was due to a judicial review taken out by the fire authority into the crime chief’s plans to replace it and take on the governance of the fire service himself.

Mr Ablewhite, though, said he had asked for more detail on “financial and operational matters”.

The judicial review was heard on June 5-6 after the fire authority argued that Mr Ablewhite’s business case to take on the governance of the fire service was “flawed”, but a decision may not be reached for many weeks.

The fire authority said it has been seeking a new training facility for a number of years and that its initial plans to build a new training centre, fire station and headquarters in Huntingdon were challenged by Mr Ablewhite in 2016, who allegedly claimed collaboration with the police would be more cost effective before offering Monks Wood for a shared training site.

Chairman of the fire authority Kevin Reynolds said: “We stopped our initial plans as the PCC was adamant we should be collaborating and we willingly entered into discussions with him for alternatives.

“His offer of Monks Wood was a viable option for us and also benefited the public purse so we pursued this to the point of having initial planning permission agreed. We are now ready to press the button but we first need a final agreement from Mr Ablewhite but he is refusing to give this at this time.

“We invited him to our fire authority meeting to discuss things but he declined. It is all becoming hugely frustrating. We desperately need a new operational training facility that is fit for the modern day fire and rescue service to ensure our firefighters are trained and competent in the wide ranging incidents they attend, but we are now being held back.”

The fire authority is now inviting Mr Ablewhite to an extraordinary meeting to discuss the matter further.

Mr Ablewhite said: “I am surprised to read about the fire authority’s frustrations regarding progressing my offer to provide land at Monks Wood for shared training facilities for Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service.

“In my letter of May 21 to the chairman of the fire authority, I asked for more detail about financial and operational matters in the authority’s business case in order for me to consider the options appropriately.

“Once the outcome of the judicial review is announced I will be in a position to discuss further.”