THERE are no plans to close Stratford Police Station – despite the land it stands on being suggested for some redevelopment.
The Rother Quarter, as it is being described, is a triangular piece of land that is bounded by Rother Street, Greenhill Street and Grove Road in the town centre.
It has been included in a Stratford District Council document, named the Site Allocations Plan, which is described as being to identify reserve housing sites should those in the core strategy not come to fruition, and to add more detail to sites proposed for employment use.
The suggested boundary published with that document takes in the police station and former magistrates’ court, the site of the new hotel, the ArtsHouse, two car parks, a block of flats, the United Reformed Church, and several business premises that front Rother Street.
The council document does say that ‘there is no expectation that any existing uses in the area should be redeveloped’, adding that it is ‘thought appropriate to explore the opportunity to accommodate other uses’.
Speaking to the Herald this week, Philip Seccombe, Warwickshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, admitted the police-owned buildings were not used to their full potential, but scotched any suggestion there was a plan to move out.
“Stratford Police Station is about to be re-roofed, which is costing a significant sum, and I hope that sends a message out that it’s not going to be sold,” he said.
“We have seen the consultation and we will be responding. This is a Stratford District Council planning document, and is certainly the first time I have seen a map with any established boundaries on it.
“We own the freehold of the police station and the former magistrates’ court, and we will be interested to see what emerges from the consultation.
“But both the Chief Constable and I are in full agreement that Stratford is an important location and deserves a police station. We are not interested in losing our presence in Stratford.
“If anything was to happen then we would not be moving out of that site unless we had an equally prominent alternative – I would like to reassure people of that.”
Cllr Chris Saint, the leader of the district council and also in charge of planning policy, said the sites inclusion in the document as a possible site for redevelopment was ‘pre-emptive’.
It will now be the subject of a six-week public consultation, during which Cllr Saint said “constructive comments” would be welcome.
Mr Seccombe has also defended the planned increase in Warwickshire Police’s share of annual council tax bills of a double-the-rate-of-inflation 6.25 per cent, which amounts to around £12 a year.
It came off the back of a freeze in last year’s taxpayers contribution to the county’s £98million policing budget, around half of which comes from the government.
The rise was supported in a public poll, but that drew just 1,500 responses. There are around 235,000 households in the county.
““Without a cash boost of this scale, Warwickshire Police would face having to lose around 60 police officer posts over the medium term, a position that would leave the force having to make very difficult choices over a reduced the level of service to the public,” he said.
“I do not think this is acceptable and the consultation clearly backs up that this is not what the public or local businesses would want to see either.
“I froze the police bill last year to send a message to the force that efficiencies needed to be made and that there isn’t a never-ending stream of money from taxpayers, and those targets I set were exceeded.
“But pressure is building up again with many things, including the increase in police pay.”
Police strength figures released last week show that Warwickshire has around 850 officers, compared to the 2010 pre-austerity peak of 1,000.
Mr Seccombe insisted measures were in place to allow officers to spend more time out of police stations, which he said would amount to frontline officers spending an extra hour a day out on the streets than they do now.
He added: “We are holding the line with what we have got and we can keep people safe. I would like to think we could get our numbers back up to 1,000, but at the moment I don’t have the money.”
The force’s former headquarters in Leek Wootton will also be put on the market later this year when its communications centre relocates from there to a new £3million base in Warwick, Mr Seccombe has confirmed.
The Grade II-Listed former stately home, Woodcote House, and surrounding land is earmarked for housing in Warwick District Council’s local plan.