New development is key to service transformation

A transformational headquarters, training centre and new fire station are at the heart of ambitious modernisation plans for the region’s fire service.

West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service HQ being demolished

Work on West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (WYFRS)’s Birkenshaw site is currently underway, after planning was approved earlier this year.

Dramatic footage released today shows the demolition of old buildings is moving at pace – with plans for the whole building to be ready by 2024.

The £28.6m sustainable development will include future proof resources like a state-of-theart urban search and rescue training centre, taking firefighter learning far into the 21st century.

Pioneering teaching will be delivered from a progressive training centre with firefighter learning based around modern and emerging risks and threats. It forms part of wider modernisation plans for West Yorkshire fire stations, so all meet new firefighter safety standards and are fully inclusive. This will enable the service to deliver its vision to keep West Yorkshire people and communities safe.

The old headquarters – currently based in the on-site Grade II listed Oakroyd Hall - will be sold once the new build is complete. A new fire station, replacing the outdated one at Cleckheaton, is also being located at the Bradford Road site, and is expected to be operational within the next 18 months.

Assistant Chief Fire Officer Nick Smith, who is leading the building programme for WYFRS, said: “Seeing the old buildings coming down and so quickly has made this transformation real to us all now. “Discussions to build a new headquarters has been on the cards for well over a decade, so it is great to see this finally taking shape. This is an integral part of our aim to be a modern, efficient, and effective fire service, keep our communities safe.

“The Birkenshaw site redevelopment is part of a wider estates strategy to ensure all our stations across the region are modern and fit for purpose now and well into the future.” He added the modernisation and transformation of the service is part of national framework to ensure all fire services are fit for the future.

Earlier this year WYFRS was rated as good by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services. Now the service is aiming for outstanding. “Our overarching vision is that we keep communities safe and that we can evidence we are doing this, as that is what we are here to do,” added ACFO Smith.

“We now need to be on the front foot, leading the way nationally and locally with innovative thinking and ambition to ensure we achieve this aim.” The development was given a further boost on Thursday after councillors gave the nod of approval to the next stage of the multi-million-pound plans, which are being developed by Willmott Dixon.

Less than half of the overall spend is for the headquarters building, with the rest divided between the training centre, new fire station and to ensure the site is net zero in terms of its carbon footprint. The green site will generate 50,000kWh of sustainable energy per year through solar panels and will reduce carbon consumption through heat pumps, hybrid ventilation and efficient building materials.

“The service has chosen to spend more in this area than required,” added ACFO Smith. “As one of the largest organisations in the region in terms of reach, it is our duty to ensure we not only meet required standards when it comes to sustainability, but that we invest as much as we can in this area. We take our responsibility seriously in terms of climate change now and in the future.”

As part of its commitment to the local economy developers Willmott Dixon has already created local jobs and training opportunities at the site and are on track to start building the new three-storey complex early next year. Chris Yates, Yorkshire director for Willmott Dixon, said: “We are proud to be working in partnership with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to support the modernisation of its estate, and are excited to play our part in delivering a state-of-the-art environment for those who work around the clock to keep us all safe.

“We believe in delivering brilliant buildings that strengthen communities and this really will be a project delivered for local people by local people. To date, 44 per cent of our project spend has been invested with local businesses based within 10 miles of the development, we have created 24 weeks of apprenticeships and delivered 465 hours of supporting under 24-yearolds into work.

“We are also proud to support the customer’s net zero ambitions, which are critical to the success of our own 2030 ‘Now or Never’ sustainability strategy. By the end of 2030 all our new buildings and major refurbishments will achieve net zero operational carbon.”