Councillors in Epsom and Ewell have criticised plans to reduce the number of fire crews working around the clock in Surrey.

The plans were outlined by Surrey County Council (SCC) during a recent consultation held on the Fire and Rescue Service in the county that ended on May 26.

They included a proposal to reduce the fire crew currently operating in Banstead to a day-time crew only.

Meanwhile 'variable crews' at Walton Fire Station who work during the day and are on-call at night would be replaced with day-time only crews, plus the existing extra cover of on-call crews already in place.

Commenting on the proposals in a statement released Wednesday, a spokesperson for Epsom and Ewell Borough Council (EEBC) said that, while the continuation of a continuous fire engine at Epsom Station was welcome, other elements in the the proposals were more concerning.

The spokesperson said: "We were pleased to note that the proposal is for the current full time engine at Epsom to remain unchanged, with one whole time crew.

"However it is disappointing that the proposal is for the engine at nearby Banstead to be reduced to a day crew only. We are concerned about the resilience of the cover provided."

They added that the concern was justified in reference to the recent fire in nearby Stoneleigh.

As the Surrey Comet reported of the event, the Stoneleigh fire in question was so severe that crews from across the region were needed to get the blaze under control.

EEBC said its concerns over SCC's proposals to reduce cover in the area were "highlighted at the Stoneleigh fire on the evening of Saturday, April 27, which required nine engines.

"The Epsom fire engine did not attend as the station was closed at 6pm that evening due to insufficient crew," EEBC said recalling the event.

The spokesperson added: "We are aware (of) reports over the last year that there were insufficient numbers of fire crew at Surrey stations to cover the number of agreed engines and it is unclear if this has been resolved.

"The document ‘Making Surrey Safer’ fails to reference the staffing issues to ensure adequate resilience, only focusing on the number of engines. Having an engine available 24 hours a day is futile should there be insufficient staff to resource it."

Your Local Guardian: Epsom Fire station © Copyright Stephen Richards Epsom Fire station © Copyright Stephen Richards

EEBC's strongly-worded reaction to the consultation document were echoed by councillors in the area. 

Speaking to the Surrey Comet about the proposals, Councillor for Stoneleigh Ward Chris Webb said: 

"As a resident and now local councillor who was directly involved in the fire that struck Rembrandt Court, I am extremely concerned to hear of the proposals outlined by Surrey Fire and Rescue Service. 

"The initial response came from 
Banstead...the speed in which that fire ripped through those houses was incredible and one can only imagine the catastrophic consequences had it happened in the middle of the night or under what they are proposing..."

The former mayor of the borough, Councillor Neil Dallen, who is currently chairman of the Environment and Safe Communities Committee, agreed. 

Cllr Dallen said: "In 2013, we lost one of the two fire engines based at Epsom when it was relocated to Banstead.

"I am disappointed to find out that it is now proposed to make Banstead a day only station. This, along with an apparent lack of staff to man the engine at Epsom full time, causes me concerns for the safety of local residents."

Responding to a request for comment from the Comet, a Surrey Fire and Rescue spokesperson said: "The fire and rescue proposals have been developed to make Surrey safer by increasing the service’s focus on prevention work which we know saves lives.

"We want to prevent emergencies from happening in the first place rather than having to deal with the consequences when they do.

"The proposals also address the findings of a critical review of the service last year which said it must improve.

"We have received over 1,700 responses to the consultation and all of them will be thoroughly considered before Cabinet decide how to proceed in September."

To view the consultation document "Making Surrey Safer" on proposed changes to the Fire and Rescue Service in Surrey, follow this link: