AREA FIRE BRIGADE
FIRE STATION ACCOMMODATION
Memorandum on the position regarding accommodation for Fire Brigade purposes in the Lanarkshire Fire Brigade showing the position on the return of the Fire Brigades to Local Authority Control on the 16th May, 1948, and also to the progress made during the interim period and recommendations with regard to long term planning of Fire Stations within the County.
It is generally accepted in the Fire Services of Great Britain that at the present time buildings used for Fire Stations and Fire Brigade purposes are totally and hopelessly inadequate. It has been estimated that 63% of the existing fire stations were out of date many years before the War and are so unsuitable as to require replacement with new buildings. Of the remaining, 25% could only be adapted to meet modern fire service requirements at an exceedingly high cost, while only 12% can be regarded as reasonably good enough to meet present day requirements. It can, therefore, be easy to understand that these lamentable conditions of fire brigade buildings provide a great hindrance to the Fire Brigades in their earnest endeavours to obtain the maximum of efficiency.
The Lanarkshire Fire Brigade is no different in this respect and in fact it is safe to say that so far as Fire Stations are concerned they are in a very impoverished state.
2 PRIOR TO THE WAR
When the Fire Service returned to Local Authority control on the 16th May, 1948, it came back with 7 years’ experience of a National Fire Service which brought in its train – standard conditions of service, the beginning of standardisation of equipment, and development in fire prevention. It also produced a standard form of fire cover over the whole country which did not previously exist.
Before the War the almost 220 Fire Brigades in Scotland operated under varying standards. Only one Brigade was employed on a platoon or shift system of duty and all other professional Brigades continued to operate on a continuous duty system. Many Fire Brigades employed a few wholetime firemen with a greater number of part time men in a retained capacity but the majority of Fire Brigades in Scotland at that time were entirely of part time retained or part time volunteer elements.
3 CONDITIONS IN
In the County of Lanark the various Fire Authorities employed their Brigades on different systems. Coatbridge Town Council immediately prior to the War decided to reorganise their Fire Brigade and appointed a new Firemaster and the Brigade was in the process of reorganisation on a purely professional basis. The new Fire Station which was planned was prevented from being built owing to the exigencies of the War.
Motherwell and Wishaw Fire Brigade consisted of six wholetime firemen and a number of retained firemen, while the County Fire Brigade, which also provided cover in Hamilton and Rutherglen, was manned by policemen acting as part time retained firemen together with a civilian mechanic driver employed fulltime, in some of the stations. The Firemaster of the County Fire Brigade was also the Chief Constable. Airdrie Fire Brigade was also a Police Fire Brigade employed on a part time basis.
The Fire Station buildings in the portion of the County covered by the Police Fire Brigades were mainly provided in the Police Buildings and only consisted of a garage sufficient to hold one appliance except in Hamilton where a portion of the Police Workshop sufficient to hold two appliances was available. Watchroom and Control Room work of the Brigade was performed in the office of the Police Stations.
An indication of the buildings available for Fire Brigade purposes in the whole County is outlined as follows:-
A portion of a Police Workshop sufficient to hold two machines together with a corrugated iron drill tower situated between the County Police Headquarters and the Garage in question. This was the Headquarters of the County Fire Brigade
Cambuslang, Bellshill and
A single bay garage incorporated in the main Police building in each of these stations.
A portion of the old Town Hall building opposite the present temporary Fire Station in King Street. This accommodation does not belong to the Fire Brigade and is rented from Rutherglen Town Council.
Larkhall and Lanark
A garage adjacent to the main Police building together with a dwelling house situated above.
There are no other buildings in the Area which belonged to the County Fire Brigade and Stations are at present temporarily situated in other parts of the County as follows:-
A small hut at Benhar Road has been adapted and barely holds one machine
The disused building taken over as an A.F.S. Station during the War has been retained.
No accommodation is owned or rented by the Fire Brigade. A lock up is given free of charge by the Owner of the Abington Hotel which is all that is available to the Brigade.
The old Slaughterhouse building was rented to house the Fire Appliance.
An old condemned property was used as a Fire Station during the A.F.S. days. Temporary improvement has been provided by the rental of a small portion of a building at the Commongreen.
There is no Fire Station in Lesmahagow and so difficult is it even to get temporary accommodation that the proposed Retained Unit at this point has not yet been instituted.
Prior to the War, Airdrie Fire Brigade had a portion of the Police buildings in which one machine was housed. At the end of the War the Station was closed and Airdrie is now served by Coatbridge Station.
It is extremely unfortunate that the prepared plan to build the new Station in 1939 at Coatbridge was perforce held up. The present Fire Station is tumbledown property on the site of the new Station proposed by Coatbridge Town Council.
Motherwell Fire Station was erected in 1925 and while it was adequate at that time to meet the needs of Motherwell, it is at the moment grossly overcrowded.
4 PROGRESS TO DATE
So totally inadequate and obsolete are the Fire Brigade buildings in Lanarkshire that the problem has been developed from two main angles and in some cases a combination of both.
(a) Immediate temporary acquisition and adaptations;
(b) Long term planning
(a) Immediate temporary
acquisition and adaptations.
Since the Brigade returned to Local Authority control in May, 1948, a great deal of work has been done to complete the immediate temporary acquisition and adaptation programme and these arrangements are in course of being completed and can be described as follows:-
(1) Fire Brigade
Fire Brigade Headquarters are temporarily housed in Motherwell Fire Station but it is proposed to incorporate the permanent Administrative and Operational Headquarters in the new Fire Station which is to be erected in Whistleberry Road, Blantyre.
The present Fire Station in Hamilton is such that it would be totally impossible to make any adaptations from an operational point of view and progress has been made with the acquisition of a site at Whistleberry Road for the erection of a new Fire Brigade Headquarters that, when completed, will allow for the closing of the present Hamilton Station. Hamilton Fire Station in its present situation is only 2½ miles from the nearest wholetime Fire Station at Motherwell, and its new situation in the proposed Fire Brigade Headquarters – one and one tenth of a mile west – will provide a better balance of the wholetime men between these two stations. It is also admirably situated for the purpose of the Brigade Headquarters and will be within striking distance of all the main stations in Lanarkshire including a new station at East Kilbride. It will be easy to reinforce from the Headquarters to all points at Cambuslang, Coatbridge, Bellshill, Motherwell and South of the County via Hamilton.
The station provides housing facilities for seven members of the Brigade while there are still five families resident who have now no connection with the Brigade and one who never had any. One small house of three rooms is used for administration. The accommodation available for operational purposes is extremely meagre and it is hoped when the tenants with no association in the Fire Brigade are rehoused elsewhere, to adapt certain of the houses for operational needs.
Arrangements are in hand to acquire a site centrally situated between Airdrie and Coatbridge and an Architect has been appointed to plan the erection of a new Fire Station. The present Station in Coatbridge is obsolete in so far as it was never built as a Fire Station and is merely a collection of derelict property. The problem can only be solved by the speedy erection of a new Station.
The accommodation at Lanark is only large enough for housing one appliance and the operational requirements are inadequately provided for in a prefabricated hut erected in a Builder’s Yard about 100 yards from the Appliance Room. Great difficulty was experienced in Lanark in procuring a site for a new station but it has now been decided to proceed with the acquisition of an excellent site situated 100 yards East of the present station. As in Coatbridge, nothing could be done to improve the present accommodation and only by the erection of a new building would satisfaction be gained.
Before the end of the War, wholetime N.F.S. firemen were stationed at Shotts and a portion of a farm building at Benhar Road was requisitioned in which appliances were housed. Accommodation was provided for the wholetime firemen in a small prefabricated hut erected in the adjoining field. When the wholetime men were removed from Shotts, the farm buildings were returned to their Owners and on the return of the Fire Service to Local Authority control, adaptations were carried out to this hut in which the appliances could to be housed. The position of the hut was unsuitable and after months of careful searching, a site for the new station was found at McAllister’s Garage, Shottskirk Road. The site and building standing thereon have been purchased at a cost of £1,750 and adaptations are at the moment in hand which will provide very good accommodation for the Part time Retained Unit. At a future date it will be proposed to clear the site and erect a permanent Part time Retained Station with two bays and a drill yard.
During the past two years much progress has been made in Douglas. The old Slaughterhouse buildings have been acquired by the Fire Brigade and they stand on the site which is large enough and is centrally positioned to provide a modern Part time Retained Station. Adaptations are about to proceed at a cost of £1,500 which will provide reasonably good accommodation until it may be possible to clear the site and erect a permanent building.
Since May, 1948, the Unit in Abington has been instituted but as can be expected there is no property available in this small village that can be taken over as a Fire Station. Various sites have been examined and it is hoped to make some progress at an early date.
At the 16th May, 1948 the Fire Brigade were housed in an old condemned building that did not provide sufficient accommodation to house a Standard Towing Unit. A temporary let has been secured of a building in the Commongreen just big enough to allow the machine to enter with a loft over that has been comfortably adapted for the Retained Men’s quarters. Examination has proceeded for a suitable site and some progress has been made in this connection.
During the days of the National Fire Service when the numbers of firemen were being reduced, it was decided to close the Bishopbriggs Fire station and allow this portion of the County to be covered by Springburn Station in Glasgow and Kirkintilloch Station, Dunbartonshire. On the return of the Fire Service to Local Authority control, Kirkintilloch was in Central Fire Area and Springburn in the Glasgow Area and it was necessary to re-open the Bishopbriggs Station which was in the Lanarkshire Fire Brigade area.
The pre-war Brigade premises consisted only of one garage and a portion of the war time decontamination hut at the rear of the Police buildings has now been taken over and adapted to provide the operational requirements of wholetime men. While this accommodation serves well as a temporary measure, an effort is being made at the moment to find suitable accommodation upon which can be erected a permanent Fire Station and it is hoped to be able to complete all arrangements in preparation to build at the appropriate time.
The premises used as a Fire Station in Rutherglen consist of prefabricated huts erected during the National Fire Service days. The accommodation at this station is not good from a Fire Brigade point of view and an effort is being made to select a suitable site within the Cambuslang – Burnside – Rutherglen area on which can be erected a modern and up to date Fire Station. It is hoped to commence arrangements in order to be able to start work on the erection of the Station at a reasonable date.
During the National Fire Service a Fire Station was opened in Stepps but on the reduction of personnel in the Fire Service this Station was closed. Arrangements are almost completed to bring into operation a Retained Unit in Stepps and temporary accommodation to house an appliance has been acquired in a Transport Workshop adjacent to the dwellings of a number of men who are enrolled as Part Time Retained Firemen. It will, however, be necessary to consider the erection of a proper Fire Station and work will proceed with the selection of a suitable site and it will be proposed to have the necessary arrangements made for the commencement of building.
An old derelict building adjoining the present station has been taken over and adapted for housing appliances. The whole station has been extensively repaired and will serve for some time. The let of the premises is however on a five year basis and if not renewed after that period a new Station will be necessary. A site for such a proposed station is at present being examined.
(14) Bellshill, Larkhall,
The present stations are reasonably good and will serve for a considerable period. Sites for new stations are being examined on which can be built new Fire Stations of the future.
5.LONG TERM PLAN
It will be appreciated that Lanarkshire Fire Brigade on its reconstitution in terms of the Fire Services Act, 1947, has come into possession of Fire Stations, that , generally speaking, are little better than a collection of old and worn out buildings used as Fire Stations. While in each Station many difficulties have been overcome in this connection, the solution to most of the problems can best be found in the preparation of a plan and attempting as far as possible to replace the old Fire Stations accordingly. I firmly believe that, except for Motherwell Fire Station, all has been spent that should be on adaptations and efforts should now be in concentrated on new and modern buildings.
The opening of the new Fire Brigade Headquarters in Blantyre will permit a rearrangement by adaptation in Motherwell Fire Station so that accommodation can be provided that is so necessary in the interests of operational efficiency. As a guide to an effort to reach an objective I would recommend the adoption of the following principles:-
(I) Fire Brigade
The site has been selected and about to be taken over, plans are being prepared and work will be able to commence early in 1951.
(II) Hamilton Fire Station.
When it is possible to occupy the operational portion of the Headquarters then this Station will be closed.
The transfer of the administrative staff to the new Headquarters will permit the adaptations and provision of better accommodation for operational requirements.
The present accommodation and arrangements are so unsuitable that a site has been selected, plans are being prepared that should permit the building of a new Station to commence at the beginning of 1953.
The accommodation at this Station, while commodious, can only be properly provided by the building of a new Station in a more central and suitable site in the Cambuslang – Burnside – Rutherglen area. When a site is eventually selected, plans could be prepared for building to commence in the region of 1956.
(VI) Lanark. A start has been made to take over a site and the preparation of plans in order that the Fire Station can commence as early as possible and preferably in 1952.
The present Station is reasonably good as a temporary measure. A search for a site, however, is taking place and when this is completed plans can be prepared to commence building about 1960.
There is nothing in Abington that can be taken over and adapted and the provision of accommodation can only be accomplished by the building of a new Station. It is hoped to find a site and have plans prepared in order that building can take place as early as possible but preferably at the end of 1951.
(IX) Bellshill, Cambuslang,
The accommodation at Bellshill, Larkhall and Cambuslang will serve reasonably well until the more pressing needs of the Brigade in other Stations are satisfied.
The present building is taken on a five year let and examination is being made of a site and it is hoped plans can be prepared ready to build about 1957.
The present building, when adaptations are completed, should prove satisfactory until at least 1965.
There is no building at Lesmahagow and the only way to provide Fire Station accommodation is to erect a new building. Examinations are being made of sites and it is hoped to make some progress at an early date. When this has been completed it is hoped to make some progress at an early date. When this has been competed it is hoped that a Fire Station can be erected as soon as possible.
The site for a permanent Fire Station has been selected and the building at present erected thereon is being adapted and should prove reasonably satisfactory for at least 10 years.
Progress has been made with the selection of a site for a new Fire Station in Strathaven and as and when it has been acquired and plans prepared, it is hoped that a Station can be proceeded with in 1958.
Arrangements are in progress to bring into operation a Part time Retained Unit in Stepps and as accommodation can only be found in the Workshop of the County Repairs Depot, it will be necessary to provide a permanent Fire Brigade Station as early as possible in the next few years.
(XVI) East Kilbride.
As the development in East Kilbride proceeds the need for the provision of greater fire protection becomes a matter that requires serious deliberation.
Consideration has been given to this matter and investigation is being carried out to acquire by let, premises that will house a fire appliance and the recruitment of men on a part time retained capacity. In a few years, when development of the New Town gains a greater momentum, it will be necessary to further consider the erection of the permanent Fire Station and the establishment of wholetime as well as part time firemen.
(XVII) Formation of
Additional Fire Stations.
It is probable that it may be necessary to provide new stations of a Part time Retained nature in the more isolated parts of the County as local development takes place. In this respect the more obvious points are at Forth and Carluke.
(XVIII) Part time Volunteer
It has been hoped to arrange the setting up of Volunteer Units in the small areas but success was only achieved in Leadhills and Crawford. The appliances in Brigades of this type are generally of a minor nature and in the meantime can be provided in the rental of small buildings.
The provision of Fire Stations as such, for this type of unit, is not a subject that can be reasonably considered at this stage.
Members of the Joint Committee have already visited some of the Fire Stations and will no doubt express agreement in the need for setting out a plan of campaign to provide good Fire Stations to overcome the almost unsurmountable difficulties in the provision of efficient fire fighting organisation in Lanarkshire. Nothing in the Fire Brigade does more to hinder and handicap the efforts of firemen in serving the public to the best of their ability than having to maintain and care for appliances and equipment in Fire Stations that are totally unsuitable for such work.
The foregoing observations and plans, if accepted in principle by the Joint Committee, will provide a sound basis for the provision of Fire Stations in the future.
ALEXANDER H. NISBET
Fire Brigade Headquarters
25th November, 1950.
(Mitchell Library C01/11/1, 1950/51 minutes Pages 165-171.)
LANARKSHIRE FIRE BRIGADE