Fire chief warns council: 'St Albans road closures hamper response times'

Councillors vote on St Albans road closures

St Albans district councillors have voted to send a series of proposals to County Hall about city centre road closures - Credit: Archant / St Albans Council

Road closures in St Albans city centre should only proceed if emergency services will not be hampered, councillors have ruled.

The last-minute policy change followed a warning from the fire service.

The district council’s Public Realm Committee voted on Monday, December 13, to back trials next year in which Market Place, George Street and High Street will be closed.

But Conservatives won an amendment stating that before proceeding, officials should “seek confirmation” that emergency service response times would not be "negatively impacted” by any trials.

Annie Brewster negotiated the wording with Lib Dem chairman Anthony Rowlands, which the committee unanimously backed.

Lib Dem St Albans councillor Anthony Rowlands

Anthony Rowlands, Lib Dem chairman of the Public Realm Committee, accepted the amendment and his party supported it - Credit: St Albans Council

In a letter, Sean Comerford, district commander for Dacorum and St Albans, told the committee that fire engines were required to attend incidents in 10 minutes.

“The closure of the High Street and George Street can hamper our ability to achieve those standards, particularly in Romeland, Romeland Hill, Fishpool Street and other streets in that general area," he warned, saying response times could hit 15 minutes.

St Albans Conservative councillor Annie Brewster

Conservative councillor Annie Brewster, head of scrutiny, raised concerns about emergency service access and secured the amendment - Credit: St Albans Council

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“The fire service have made it quite clear that their response times will be delayed – and the ambulance service is even more important,” said Cllr Brewster.

County Hall accepts that the closures are causing congestion elsewhere, as High Street is one of only two main roads through the city.

Cllr Brewster said ambulance first responders, who do not use blue lights, were previously able to attend incidents in eight minutes.

“But they can’t now, and that’s really serious,” she said.

Prior meetings were told about several examples of paramedics being impeded by the closures – although the ambulance service has declined to publicly comment.

Councillors vote on St Albans road closures

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of seeking confirmation that emergency services' response times would not be negatively impacted - Credit: St Albans Council

The roads were closed last year to facilitate social distancing, but local councillors asked County Hall to keep them closed to facilitate al fresco dining.

St Albans is the only council to have asked County Hall to maintain the COVID-19 closure of an A-road.

Councillors voted to delay any trials until April and said High Street and George Street should reopen in the interim.

A final decision will be taken by a County Hall board, including St Albans Lib Dem councillors.

For more, read:

St Albans road closures decision: Everything you need to know

St Albans city centre road closures reduce spaces for Blue Badge holders

Shop-owner: 'Hare-brained road closures are affecting my online business'


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