Hertfordshire County Council is set to invest £16.9m to redevelop a training centre for firefighters.

The Longfield Training and Rescue Centre in Hitchin Road, Stevenage, has been used to train the county’s fire and rescue services for more than 30 years.

Now, councillors have given the green light to a £16.9m improvement plan for the site.

That plan includes the provision of buildings for fire training and even a purpose-built section of ‘motorway’.

The new buildings would be used to generate real fire scenarios – with two terraces and a four-storey building with a basement, that can be used to simulate high-rise incidents.

Meanwhile, a section of ‘motorway’ would enable training for larger scale incidents, in recognition that Hertfordshire has one of the largest proportions of motorway networks in the country.

Further phases of the redevelopment include proposals for a purpose-built training block, with classrooms and a conference room.

Ultimately, there are plans for the fire service's headquarters – currently based at County Hall in Hertford – to be re-located to the site.

Officers have warned that if facilities are not updated, there will be a "significant risk" firefighter training will become compromised.

Funding for the redevelopment was backed at a meeting of the county council’s cabinet.

At that meeting, deputy executive member for community protection, Councillor Adam Mitchell said this was a "fantastic project".

He said the intention was to create a state-of-the-art training centre, which was fit for both now and the future.

"This is a really good opportunity," he said.

“We have got people who are risking their lives to look after the residents of Hertfordshire, and I think it is right that we would look after those people too."

Back in February 2021, the county council approved a strategic outline business case for a Joint Emergency Service Academy on the site – for police and firefighters – at an estimated cost of £34.4m.

However, it was reported that there had been "a change in direction of travel" for both the fire service and the constabulary.

Since then, according to the officers’ report, the council has adjusted the plans.

"Significant value engineering has taken place by the team to meet the financial pressures placed on the project," the report says.

"This work has been undertaken to still meet the needs of the service and to provide enhanced training opportunities.

"A large percentage of the budget for Longfield has been directed to ensuring the training facilities are still delivering on firefighter safety and enriched learning opportunities.

"One such element is the ability to carry out high-rise simulations."

A survey of the existing site has already identified around £3m of essential repairs to existing buildings that would need to be carried out within five years, should they not be replaced.

The report also suggests that the 'motorway' could raise funds, if used by other ‘blue light’ organisations, locally and regionally.

At the meeting, leader of the county council, Cllr Richard Roberts, said it would be a "training facility for our firefighters to be proud of" – suggesting that it would have regional and national significance.

He said: "I think we have made the right financial decisions, but we have not compromised the training facility […] I think this is just what the county needs."

County councillor for Stevenage’s St Nicholas division, Cllr Phil Bibby – executive member for highways and transport – acknowledged there had been conjecture locally about the future of the site.

He said: "It is great that we have found a way to very economically actually make this into a world-leading training establishment, right in the middle of Stevenage. It is fantastic news."

According to the report, prevailing winds mean smoke can affect neighbouring properties when live training scenarios are currently taking place at Longfield, but plans for the redevelopment are reported to include a "carbon capture air quality scrubbing system" that filters the emissions.