In Berkshire they have developed a strategic approach to their estate development for blue light, Brown explained: “I have a very supportive fire authority who approved a 15-year programme of work under the strategic asset investment framework.”
Despite this, of the four stages of planned works for the Berkshire service only the first stage has been fully funded. Brown explained the importance of fully updating estates: “Every phase needs to be delivered to ensure the portfolio is fit for purpose now and into the future.”
Brown explained the role that innovation from the private sector can play in positively shaping estates projects: “The fire service has very limited budgets we still want good looking buildings that provide a 3-dimensional business card to our local community. We are far more detailed and professional in approach in Berkshire than we used to be, and we have carried out what we call an ARIBA-1 stage or discovery stage.”
Richard Hurford, Head of Energy & Sustainability at Place Partnership a public-private alliance focused on the development of Blue Light estates made it clear the usefulness of using large estates development for the incorporation of low-carbon technology: “It’s very much about taking the opportunities to modernize your technology when you need to upgrade your estates.”
Specific proposals advocated by Hurford included LED lighting, which uses only 10% of the electricity of older lighting methods, and heat pumps which provide a more efficient method of heating than traditional gas boilers.
The emergency services sector has embraced the 2050 national target for zero carbon. Hurford discussed the adoption of carbon-neutral vehicles, referring to the fact that “London fire has a fleet of 52 BMW electric I3 vehicles.”
Managing contaminants is an important part of managing fire estates, as often whilst tackling blazes equipment can become contaminated with toxic chemicals. Duncan Savage, Assistant Director for Resources at East Sussex Fire & Rescue, told delegates of the need for estates to accommodate the “separation of clean, dirty and transitional areas” and that contamination was a key challenge.
East Sussex have faced many of the same issues with aging stations as their colleagues in Berkshire have, with Savage describing a similar “spread of property” with their main station in Brighton dating from the 1930s.
Savage raised the difficulties that some fire services have with their antiquated buildings being listed, but they face restrictions in their ability to relocate. This was a concern for East Sussex when there were discussions of listing their Brighton station, yet they could not find an alternative site despite a 20-year search.
Sussex Police are looking to spend around “£14m over the next 5 years” according to Vaughan Williams, Head of Estates and Facilities at the service. They’re also seeking to make substantial cost savings of 15-25% in the revenue of their estates.
As well as sharing their headquarters with East Sussex Fire and Rescue, Sussex police have cooperated with police services in Surrey to build what Williams described as a “large multi-skilled intelligent client function.”
Williams also stressed the need to update guidelines on police station estates, which were last published in 2005, and presented an outdated model for future developments.
Outdated emergency services estates present a key obstacle to the provision of those services at their best, and do not represent the modern vibrancy the blue light sector is capable of. With the beginning of government action towards reversing funding cuts, there is massive potential for a new green estate overhaul.