Alarms raised over Fire Brigade’s £11m training tower scheme

A £11.1 million scheme to build a six-storey training tower at Croydon fire station seems likely to be given the go-ahead at a meeting on Friday, though local figures have accused London Authority officials of being “arrogant” and expressed concerns that the proposals could end up seeing the Fire Brigade “harming the people they are there to protect”.

Croydon fire station: soon to be the site of a six-storey fire tower

Croydon fire station: soon to be the site of a six-storey fire tower

Croydon has been selected as the only suitable site in south London large enough to provide the capital’s firefighters with a third training facility, where they can practice and rehearse evacuations of high-rise buildings.

With similar training facilities already in east and west London, the Fire Brigade says that it needs a south London training base to save on travel and subsistence costs. A site at Biggin Hill Airport has been dismissed as too small.

But Croydon fire station, on Roman Way, close to the Flyover, is positioned among some high-density housing in Waddon and Old Town, in an area already noted for particularly poor air quality caused by exhaust fumes from two urban motorways. There is a secondary school and a primary school close by, with another to be built. The fire station site is also less than a mile from where Westfield wants to build its £1.4 billion shopping supermall.

The use of the carbonaceous fire tower would see high intensity training drills using smoke being staged on a near-daily basis. Two firefighters have died in recent months when involved in rescues from fires in high-rise tower blocks.

In the report submitted ahead of Friday’s resources committee meeting of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, such considerations for local residents are shrugged off as unimportant.

“While the potential for noise and issues relating to clean air, as well as the location of the fire house, are likely to be concerns and key issues for local residents and town planners, these should be addressed from the outset and the development does have some noted opportunities and advantages,” the report states.

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Fiona Twycross: the chair of the London Fire Authority

“There are no noted heritage issues to consider for example and –as the local townscape is considered poor – it should be possible for the development to make a positive contribution to the appearance of the local area.”

But local councillors say that the fire authority is wrong and “arrogant” in its report’s assumptions about the local plan.

“LFEPA is wrong to say that there are no heritage issues when our draft Local Plan seeks to protect views from the fire station’s location of Croydon Minster,” Labour councillor Andrew Pelling said.

“To describe the local townscape as ‘poor’ betrays an arrogant attitude to Waddon,” Pelling said.

Pelling and the other Waddon councillors say that they are lobbying London Assembly Member Fiona Twycross, the chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority and a Croydon resident.

“We have concerns about smoke emissions and will want to get a better understanding from the fire service as to how often the facility will be used and about the release of smoke and pollutants,” said Councillor Joy Prince.

“The area around the fire station is a sensitive one with the Elis David almshouses above the site, high density local social housing at Duppas Court and Cromwell House, and the St Andrew’s, the Minster and new Avanti local schools.”

Off the fence (and down the underpass): Waddon councillors (from left) Andrew Pelling, Robert Canning and Joy Prince: they may soon have even more flyovers to stand under

Waddon councillors (from left) Andrew Pelling, Robert Canning and Joy Prince: lobbying the London Assembly over fire station plans

Peter Underwood, the chair of the local Green Party, also took issue with the Brigade’s attitude to the area when Inside Croydon showed him the report.

“While we agree with the Fire Brigade Union that a training centre in the south of London would be a benefit, we do have concerns about building this right in the middle of Croydon,” Underwood said.

“The suggestion that a multi-storey tower billowing smoke would make ‘a positive contribution to the appearance of the local area’ shows what an insulting attitude these planners have towards Croydon and we don’t think that local residents and pupils at the nearby schools would welcome clouds of toxic fumes added to the already dangerous, dirty air they have to suffer next to the Flyover.

“We think that the London Fire Brigade need to revisit these plans to make sure that they are not harming the people they are there to protect.”

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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5 Responses to Alarms raised over Fire Brigade’s £11m training tower scheme

  1. They already have a tower so what exactly is the problem? They need a tower to train firefighters, and as you have reported there have been recent deaths during rescues from high rise buildings, so again, WHAT EXACTLY IS THE PROBLEM???? Who wrote this article and what exactly are they trying to say? Can’t they find anything else to write about, or do they just want to slag off firefighters and find any reason to criticise the way they do things? Maybe they should walk a mile in their shoes and keep their attention seeking big mouth SHUT, yes? THEY ARE RESCUING PEOPLE FROM DANGEROUS LIFE THREATENING SITUATIONS, WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM???

    • You seem to have got yourself hot under the collar.

      Suggest you go and read the fire authority’s report.

      We’ve made no criticism of firefighters in our report, implied or otherwise. Of course they are entitled to the best possible training that can be offered.

      But the proposals are not to improve firefighters’ training, but more to save a few bob on travel and subsistence costs.

      The proposals would demolish the existing tower at Croydon fire station, to replace it with a larger structure from which smoke and other fumes could impact on the residents living nearby every time it is used for training. And the fire authority have determined that this site is more suitable than an alternative at Biggin Hill, which is more removed from a densely populated residential area.

      All planning matters need to consider the impact that any proposal might have on existing residents and businesses. This one doesn’t appear to have done so.

  2. Rod Davies says:

    It certainly seems to be an odd location for a fire tower with the repeated burning of materials selected purposely for their dense smoke creating characteristics. A redundant industrial area would seem to be more appropriate. While I am not in any way qualified to comment, positioning this fire tower on the lee of a hill that would shelter it to a degree from the prevaling wind, would suggest that the smoke wont simply clear and the local residents are likely to find their homes stinking of burnt chipboard and MDF from redundant furniture (cheap source of combustable material exactly like firefighters would encounter in tower blocks).
    Fire fighters do need to train, and Surrey fire service has a spacious purpose built training centre in Reigate that is easily accessible by road & training. Wouldn’t it make sense to use this established facility?

  3. croydonres says:

    I agree with Rod Davies– this is the right facility in the wrong place : the smoke would probably be a problem due to the location of the site in the lee of the hill overlooked by a housing estate with several tower blocks.

    Reigate is not far away. Within a mile of Croydon Fire Station, we also have industrial estates along the Purley Way where there are no residents so these would be far better.

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