A RETIRED firefighters group in Chester has welcomed a shock decision to reject plans for a new £5m fire station in the city.

Tony Jones, Secretary of the Chester Retired Firefighters, said the move by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee was a “triumph for local democracy”.

Cheshire Fire Authority had wanted to demolish the current building on St Anne Street, saying it was not fit for purpose.

Chiefs said it was too expensive to run and unable to meet modern standards for disability access and energy costs.

But critics questioned the need for a new station when public money is so tight and said the plans are part of a wider move to downgrade fire service coverage in the city.

The application was rejected on Tuesday evening after councillors expressed concern it would be too overbearing on a planned block of 35 flats nearby.

In a statement, Mr Jones told The Standard: “This planning decision was a triumph for local democracy.

“In a perfect world where there is a bottomless pit of public money then a new fire station maybe desirable. However, the reality is that since 2010 Firefighter numbers in Cheshire have been cut by more than 20 per cent.”

The group previously said it “dreaded the consequences” of a decision to remove one of Chester’s two fire engines. The vehicle was moved to the new station on Powey Lane, Mollington, in January with the aim providing quicker access to the nearby motorways.

Mr Jones added: “Already Chester has lost its second fire engine and the future of Ellesmere Port’s second fire engine is subject to serious threat pending the outcome of an ongoing review.

“Some councillors on the Planning Committee talked about the need for the new £5 million fire station on the grounds that the existing building is ‘disgraceful’ but nothing was said about the need to protect the public in times of emergency.

“It is also ‘disgraceful’ that Chester has just one city centre fire engine when Bath, Worcester and Durham all have three’.”

Mr Jones continued: “Councillor Bob Rudd, the Chair of the Fire Authority now has two choices. He can re-submit a modified scheme and spend £5 million on the new fire station or he can listen to the local views that this money would be better spent on front line services.

“The Chester Retired Firefighters would like to thank Councillors Dixon, Delaney and Sullivan for their involvement in this matter.”