Brandon Lewis MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Communities, with responsibility for fire, officially broke ground on the largest building project ever undertaken by the Essex Fire Authority.
The £8.5 million development will extend the Service’s Kelvedon Park Headquarters to create a brand new emergency control centre, inter active and standard training rooms, along with extra administrative and welfare areas on a 2,300 square metres template – the equivalent of nine tennis courts.
The project to relocate the Control operation – currently based in Hutton and where emergency 999 calls are received – had been on hold in anticipation of the last Government’s plans to create Regional Control Centres. When those plans collapsed last year, the Service needed to make its own arrangements.
The Minister marked the official start of the second phase of construction work by turning the first sod of earth on the building site at a special ceremony which took place on Friday December 7. The project is scheduled for completion in March 2014.
Deputy Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley said: “As Durwards Hall this building has existed since the Doomsday Book was written and the extension has been designed to incorporate design detail which mirrors over 200 years of development on the site.
“This is by far the largest building project Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has undertaken and in creating a new emergency control centre, complete with new mobilising system, and sophisticated training rooms, the project represents a significant investment in the frontline.
“Once complete, the development will allow us to relocate the existing Control staff from our old headquarters in Hutton and consolidate a number of training operations around the county onto a single site.”
Brandon Lewis said: “It is really good to see the Essex Authority thinking carefully about making the best use of its headquarters and planning for the future, while delivering a great frontline service with the new control centre and training facilities.
“I was honoured to be part of something which represents a significant investment in the future of the Service.”
After being welcomed by Chief Fire Officer David Johnson, who outlined future plans for the Kelvedon Park site, the Minister heard presentations from Deputy Chief Fire Officer Adam Eckley on ECFRS’ journey of success from 2005 to present, including the transformation of core functions. Assistant Chief Fire Officer Dave Bill explained how recent operational decisions under the fire cover review had been intelligence, risk and activity led and Assistant Chief Fire Officer Gary Fleming talked the Minister through a number of initiatives relating to community safety and resilience.