A multi-million pound plan to move Lancashire’s fire headquarters from Preston to Chorley has been shelved for at least five years due to budget cuts.
Brigade bosses say the £10m project, to sell off their grand Victorian premises near Broughton and move to a modern purpose-built office block at the Washington Hall training centre in Euxton, are too costly in the present climate.
Instead the cash will be focused on frontline services which have been badly-hit by Government economies.
The announcement, made by the county’s Combined Fire Authority (CFA), was today welcomed by the Fire Brigades Union which has been pushing to have the move put on the back burner.
“The Broughton building is old and not really fit for purpose,” said FBU Lancashire secretary Steve Harman. “But having said that we can make do for the time being.
“With all the cut-backs that are having to be made to the fire service, it would have been totally inappropriate to make this move at such a difficult time. The Government cuts are having such a drastic effect on the frontline services, so a new headquarters isn’t a priority. We recently expressed our concerns at the move and said it would be more sensible to defer it until we get more financial stability.”
CFA chairman, Coun Frank De Molfetta, said: “I’m pleased to see members of the fire authority unanimously agreed to put it on hold until the future. It makes sense with all the cuts - the cuts are not ending, they are carrying on for a number of years so it makes absolute sense at this moment in time.”
He said the authority was also waiting for a government decision on whether different forces could be amalgamated.
The red brick Broughton mansion, built in 1892 and home to the county fire service since 1949, has been earmarked for replacement since 2012.
At that time chief fire officer Chris Kenny said: “It was built as a private residence for one family, but is now workplace for 187 people.
“Over many years it has become a compromise in terms of space and suitability for purpose. Moreover, the cost of maintaining and heating the old building has been a constant drain on resources which will be more than offset by the energy and efficiency savings that purpose-built premises would guarantee.”
Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle said: “Of course I would have welcomed this major investment into Chorley, but the plans are still there and we look forward to them coming to fruition. We recognise that in times of budget constraints, we can’t have what we always wish for.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue said: “Clearly frontline services are the priority right now. Getting new purpose-built accommodation for the headquarters was on a wish list, but to be honest it doesn’t have a degree of urgency to it.
“It’s not as if we are in a building that is crumbling around us. Our administration staff will carry on working there for the foreseeable future. We are being responsible because we acknowledge these are difficult times.”