West Midlands Fire Service yesterday said the closure of Birmingham Central Fire Station would not affect its responses to emergencies in the area.

The closure of the city centre headquarters at Lancaster Circus will see engines from the city centre station transferred to Aston and Hay Mills next year. The station, which dates back to the 1930s, is due to close because it is in need of extensive repairs costing an estimated £3 million.

Fire Control, which has 68 members of staff, will move to a new regional centre in Wolverhampton in 2008, with the rest of the 400 headquarters staff expected to move to another city centre location, which has not yet been revealed due to commercial negotiations.

Fires in the city centre will be attended by appliances from surrounding areas, including Ladywood, Highgate, Ward End, Hay Mills and Aston.

Deputy chief fire officer Vij Randeniya said: "We believe that by moving the fire engines to Aston and Hay Mills we will be able to target the areas most at risk.

The changes will not affect our attendance times to incidents in the city centre, because it will be surrounded by a 'doughnut' of fire stations. It is often easier to get to parts of the city centre from outside it. Broad Street is serviced by Ladywood because it's quicker to get there."

There are currently two engines based at the brigade's Lancaster Circus headquarters, one which provides 24-hour cover, and another which operates 16-hours a day. The 24-hour engine will be based at Aston, while the 16-hour engine will operate from Hay Mills. Currently both stations have just one engine each.

Mr Randeniya said the pattern of risk from fire had changed during the past 70 years as the city had developed and spread.

He said analysis showed that those at greatest risk of being injured or killed from fire in their home are in the North West area of Birmingham, attended by crews from Aston, and those at the greatest risk of losing their property to fire are in the South East of the city, attended by Hay Mills Fire Station.

He said the changes had not had a major impact on the brigade's plans to deal with terrorist incidents in the city centre, but he could not reveal details of those plans for safety reasons.

He said he would be sorry to leave the current headquarters because he had a soft spot for the building, but added that it was unsuitable for staff with disabilities and some staff still have to use outside toilet facilities. The brigade is currently in commercial discussions with the owners of a preferred site which it would like to move to, but the location has not yet been announced due to commercial negotiations.

The details of the changes were revealed in the fire service's Integrated Risk Management Action Plan yesterday. Earlier it was revealed West Midlands firefighters will press for a ballot on industrial action over reforms to working practices.

But Mr Randeniya said: "Those proposals were agreed by the FBU last year. Unfortunately some people are a bit unhappy now the time has come for those changes to take place. But we've talked about it for a year, it's happened, and now we're doing it. We are working with the FBU to make those changes as smooth as possible but sadly a few people seem to want to disrupt. But that is the nature of changing public services."

Proposals for the city centre are now subject to public consultation.

The full plan is at www.wmfs.net or from RMP Consultation, West Midlands Fire Service Headquarters, Lancaster Circus Queensway, Birmingham, B4 7DE.