Anger over decision to reverse move to make Haworth Fire Station a community asset

Haworth Fire Station, which was closed at the end of 2014 due to a cost-cutting programme

Haworth Fire Station, which was closed at the end of 2014 due to a cost-cutting programme

Furious campaigners have hit out after a senior council officer overturned a decision by his own councillors to grant special status to an embattled fire station building.

Keighley Area Committee agreed in April that the former Haworth Fire Station should become an asset of community value, meaning villagers seeking to reopen the facility would have a say in its future.

But West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, which owns the property and wants to sell it, objected to the classification.

And as a result, Bradford Council’s director of finance Stuart McKinnon-Evans has reversed the councillors’ decision.

Haworth, Cross Roads and Stanbury Parish Council chairman Cllr Angel Kershaw said the officer’s ruling had sparked widespread anger.

“We are outraged – that’s a word which has been repeated more than once,” she said.

“A lot of people are quite rightly infuriated.

“It would appear that a council officer has overturned the decision of a democratically elected committee.

“This will be the subject of a strongly worded complaint from ourselves.”

In his written review report, Mr McKinnon-Evans stated: “There is no evidence the building has been used as a community asset, within the definition of the Localism Act 2011.

“It was not used to promote the social interests of the community through cultural, recreational or sporting activity. Nor has it been used to further social wellbeing through economic, social or environmental activity.

“I also note that, since the building has not been used in a way that makes it eligible for listing as a community asset, it should never have been considered as such by the area committee.”

The application to make the building an asset of community value was made by the parish council.

It would have meant that if the fire service tried to sell the building, it would first be required to allow six months for the parish council or another interested local group to formulate a bid to buy the building and retain it for community use.

Cllr Kershaw said: “The fire station is the very epitome of what a community asset is.

“Groups such as the Community First Responders met there for years.

“To try and turn round and say it doesn’t fit the remit of what a community asset is, is beyond bizarre. This is a nonsensical decision and it needs to be reversed.”

The parish council, along with the Friends of Haworth and Worth Valley Fire Station group, has been campaigning to have the mothballed property re-opened and turned into a community safety hub.

Steve Thorpe, chairman of the Friends of Haworth and Worth Valley Fire Station.

Steve Thorpe, chairman of the Friends of Haworth and Worth Valley Fire Station.

Reacting to the review decision, friends group chairman Steve Thorpe said: “It’s an absolute disgrace.

“How can someone who is not an elected member of the council overturn a democratically elected committee? It makes a mockery of the system.

“We’ve been fighting for nearly 18 months and have put so much hard work in, but every time we make some progress they move the goalposts.”

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service deputy chief fire officer Dave Walton said: “Further to the original notification regarding the Asset of Community Value (ACV) status conferred upon the former Haworth Fire Station site, the fire authority sought a review.

“We’ve now been informed that following this review Bradford Council have decided to remove the ACV listing.

“The authority will now proceed with disposal of the site.”