CAMPAIGNERS fighting plans for a new fire station on Green Belt land at Saughall Massie have vowed to battle on after the development was approved by councillors last night.

The proposal - part of Merseyside Fire Authority's drive to reduce spending to meet Government-imposed budget cuts – was given the green light following a heated two-and-a-half hour debate during a planning committee meeting at Wallasey Town Hall.

More than 100 members of the public watched as councillors heard arguments for and against the planned station.

Chief fire officer Dan Stephens was heckled from the gallery when he explained the fire station would lead to faster response times in West Kirby.

Those against argued it would lead to noise pollution, add to traffic congestion, destroy the greenbelt and affect quality of life for nearby residents.

Les Spencer, chairman of Saughall Massie Village Conservation Area Society, slammed the development as an "unnecessary assault on the green belt" and urged councillors to reject it.

But they voted by seven to six in favour.

The original application was refused when it came before the planning committee in December when Labour chairwoman Cllr Anita Leech swung the decision by voting against the development.

Amendments to the scheme included reducing the site's overall size by 30%, cutting the length of building by 30ft, removing the access road to the west of the building and moving planned car parking in a nearby close nearer the fire station.

A report by planners said the proposal represents the "very special circumstances" needed to break Green Belt guidelines and are recommending approval.

Their report to planning committee continued: "Response times to the West Kirby area from the proposed fire station - and the increased rates of survivability related to those quicker response times - constitutes very special circumstances to outweigh the harm and justify inappropriate development in this particular case.

"The lack of any available alternative sites in suitable locations would further support this conclusion."

It viewed merging West Kirby and Upton into a single site at Saughall Massie as a means of cutting costs.

However, resistance to the controversial scheme increased since the last submission with a protest petition growing from 3,700 names to more than 4,000.

Leading campaigner Cllr Chris Blakeley told the Globe: "I am really disappointed that despite massive public opposition the Labour members of the planning committee simply disregarded their views and bulldozed this application through.

"It was clear to everyone that the fire services application was flawed, and that there were no special circumstances proved, but that did not seem to matter. 

"MFRS own data shows that 77% of call outs are to Upton with more elderly people living in Upton than in West Kirby and Hoylake, it seems perverse that MFRS want to move the fire station two minutes further away from the greatest area of call outs and from the 900 bed Arrowe Park Hospital and the 14 Storey block at Brackendale.

"This fight started back in December 2014 when this piece of land was offered up by the council after the Leader of the Council withdrew the fire services first choice in Greasby.  

"Since then the council has done all it can to help the fire service with this application, while ignoring over 8,000 voices in the community who objected, many of them the infirm and elderly who live in the sheltered accommodation nearby in Woodpecker Close and on Saughall Massie Road. 

"Their quality of life will be destroyed by the decision to approve. 

"The fight continues and we will be asking the Secretary of State to call in this decision. 

"It's clear to me and the people I represent that the decision last night was the wrong decision."

Chairman of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Authority Cllr Dave Hanratty told the Globe: "In an emergency situation, literally every second counts and the selection of Saughall Massie was based on achieving the best possible response times in the circumstances.

"Ongoing budget cuts have impacted the service significantly and it is becoming ever harder for us to provide the service the public have become accustomed to.

"We will do all in our power to maintain some of the fastest response times in the country however there are no options available to us that do not adversely affect our speed and weight of attack.

"We understand that many residents had concerns with the location of the station and we made every effort to take those concerns into account, which thankfully the planning committee recognised.

"We will now endeavour to be good neighbours and to keep the community and surrounding areas safe.

"Our intention has only ever been to ensure the safety of residents in West Wirral and across Merseyside."