DETAILED planning for the downgrading of Huntingdon fire station’s 24-hour cover could begin next week if councillors give the go-ahead.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS) will ask the fire authority for permission to make the change "as soon as practicable", according to documents seen by The Hunts Post.

Letters have been sent to all employees affected by the potential changes, after a study showed there was potential for delivering frontline services more cost-effectively.

The Save Cambs Fire action group has already warned that public opinion is set against any changes to Huntingdon's fire cover.

The authority will meet on Thursday, May 26 to examine the first batch of feasibility studies that could help the service to save £2.5million over the next four years.

Priority of the four studies is the removal of Huntingdon's 24-hour wholetime crews at night, to be replaced with on-call cover from the day crews living in houses close to the station site - a system known as Day Crewed Plus.

Other options to be presented to the fire authority include a review of shift patterns to provide cover with fewer firefighters.

The letter, signed by deputy chief fire officer Chris Strickland, says: "In relation to Huntingdon Fire Station, having completed the feasibility study, I will be asking the fire authority for permission to conduct a full business case and implementation plan to convert the crewing system to a day crewed plus (DCP) model as soon as practicable.

"The reason we are looking to recommend this is the due to the limited number of calls received by the station at night, which means it is particularly suited to the DCP system and will have a minimal effect on turnout times."

A spokesman for the Save Cambs Fire group said that there were alternative ways of achieving the savings necessary without impacting the front line.

"The brief was to save money with the least impact. This will have an impact on the front line.

"Huntingdon has fewer calls at night but that is when there are more injuries because people are asleep. Any delay in getting to those incidents cannot be allowed. It will affect not only people in Huntingdon but all the towns and villages nearby."

The fire authority will also be asked to consider the removal of the rescue vehicle from Huntingdon fire station after the study demonstrated the service did not require three in the county.

A third potential saving is a review of crewing patterns, which would maintain the current number of appliances but require fewer wholetime firefighters and could deliver savings of £900,000.

The letter adds: "The service will endeavour, where possible, to make the necessary changes through natural wastage, and will only use redundancy as a last resort."

INFORMATION: The results of the feasibility studies to go to the fire authority will be released today (Wednesday) - you can log on to www.huntspost24.co.uk to find out the latest.