A SECOND fire engine could soon return to Chester city centre – in a move that would see Ellesmere Port lose one of its two engines.

Chester Fire Station lost one of its two fire engines in 2017 when Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service moved it to its new station at Powey Lane, in Mollington.

But campaigners have urged Cheshire Fire Authority to bring the second engine back to the city ever since – and an online petition calling for its return has attracted more than 2,500 signatures.

Now, Cheshire Fire Authority says one of the two fire engines at Ellesmere Port station could be transferred to Powey Lane, to allow the second Chester fire engine to return to the city centre.

In a draft four-year plan which includes the proposal, Cheshire Fire Authority insists Ellesmere Port is well covered by the engine based at Powey Lane.

It said: “The new fire station has been a huge success. It provides specialist capabilities and has significantly improved response times across a large area, including improved response to outlying areas such as Neston.

“Powey Lane fire station is 3.3 miles from Ellesmere Port Fire Station and its fire engine can respond to most of the Ellesmere Port area within 10 minutes.

“This change will maintain all of the benefits of the new fire station at Powey Lane whilst ensuring that response times in Chester and Ellesmere Port are amongst the best in Cheshire.”

According to Cheshire Fire Authority, Chester Fire Station serves a population of 98,313 and spans an area with 45,980 homes, 206 grade listed buildings and 69 ‘high risk’ premises.

Meanwhile, the authority says that Ellesmere Port’s station serves 60,969 residents and spans an area with 28,658 homes, two grade listed buildings and 45 ‘high risk’ premises.

The fire service attended 801 incidents in the Chester fire station area in 2018-19, compared to 621 across the Ellesmere Port area in the same year.

The Chester Retired Firefighters group has campaigned to bring back the second fire engine over the past two years – attracting support from councillors and Chris Matheson, the city’s recent MP.

They argued the £5 million being spent by the authority on a new station for the city centre would have been put to better use on a second fire engine for the city.

But fire chiefs insisted the cash came from a separate pot for capital investments – and Chester could have both a new station and a second fire engine.

Mark Cashin, chief fire officer, and Cllr Bob Rudd, chairman of Cheshire Fire Authority, penned a joint statement in the draft plan which includes the proposal.

It says: “The authority has undergone a significant period of transformation in responding to a changing society and reductions in central funding.

“There are, as with all fire and rescue services, many challenges to be faced and overcome in the years ahead.

“Ultimately, the authority is dedicated to providing the communities of Cheshire with a fire and rescue service that is committed to saving lives, changing lives and protecting lives to achieve its vision of no deaths, injuries or damage from fires or other emergencies.”

Cheshire Fire Authority considered downgrading Ellesmere Port’s second fire engine in February 2018.

Members voted against the plans following strong opposition, and instead asked authority officers to consider whether the engine could be relocated to another station.

The proposal is included in Cheshire Fire Authority’s draft integrated risk management plan for 2020 to 2024, which goes to public consultation from Monday, December 16, to Friday, March 20, 2020.