Work has been going on over many months to determine which police buildings we need - and which we can manage without. At the heart of the detailed discussions has been the need to ensure that our Community Policing Teams (CPTs) have the right presence in the right locations.
Chief Constable Mike Veale has set out his operational policing needs, so I am now in a position to share with you my estates strategy for the next five years and beyond.
The aim is to see the cost of running the Force’s HQ and other buildings reduced by 20 per cent by 2021. But it is important to say that this project is driven not by austerity but by efficiency.
We need to recognise that doing things the way we have always done them is not efficient or effective. This is about being more efficient with the public’s money.
The strategy will involve a major investment at several key locations to provide buildings fit for 21st Century policing.
Community policing hubs
There will be eight CPT hubs at the following locations:
- Police HQ, Devizes (at present the hub is at Devizes Borough in New Park Street; this site will be sold once CPT officers and staff transfer to HQ). As for the London Road HQ, we do not consider it fit for purpose. We will explore whether the buildings can be reconfigured or whether a more radical redevelopment is needed
- Gablecross, Swindon
- Monkton Park, Chippenham
- Warminster (the police station is not fit for purpose. We will explore with partners the options for a suitable base in the town, either on the present site or at a new, shared location)
- Royal Wootton Bassett (this station is in need of a radical overhaul. We will explore the possibilities of the Force sharing a building in the town with partners)
- Bourne Hill, Salisbury
- Tidworth (serving both Tidworth and Amesbury)
Since the closure of Salisbury custody in June 2014 detainees have been taken to Melksham custody by a dedicated Prisoner Transport Team made up of police staff. The Chief Constable and I concluded that two units - Gablecross in Swindon and one other – were sufficient. Consideration was given to building a new unit in the Warminster area which would have led to the closure of Melksham custody.
However we have agreed that, against a backdrop of falling demand for custody as a result of changes in the law restricting police bail, that we cannot justify spending up to £11m of public money to move a custody unit 12 miles south of Melksham when it would provide only a marginal improvement in the travel time from the Salisbury area whilst at the same time increasing journey times from the north and west of Melksham.
Therefore Melksham custody will remain open. Both Gablecross and Melksham custody units will be updated and renovated in line with maintenance schedules. The remainder of the Melksham building will continue to provide a base for operational teams.
Community touchdown points
A number of small police buildings are under-used and cost money to maintain. In Tisbury, for example, officers and staff are now making use of the council’s Nadder Centre, allowing the police station to close, producing a saving in running costs of 95 per cent.
Senior officers have indicated where other touchdown points would be useful and that list has been shared with council and blue light partners to help identify suitable premises in the following locations:
We already share premises with partners at the following locations:
Bradford on Avon
Springfield campus, Corsham
Swindon North Point
Swindon West Point
Swindon town centre
Front counter services
The intention is to continue with front counter services at the following locations:
Bourne Hill, Salisbury
Monkton Park, Chippenham
Marlborough (limited hours)
Mobile, flexible, visible and accessible
Embracing and investing in technology is an important part of this estates strategy. Moving away from desks at fixed locations with desktop PCs to personal issue laptops, tablets and smartphones enables officers and staff to work more flexibly and visibly in communities. It also helps to ensure that public funds are spent on frontline policing rather than unnecessary and sometimes old and costly buildings.
We now have the technology to allow officers and staff to sit in public spaces and be more visible and accessible. We are more responsive, more mobile, more visible, more technology-enabled, easier to engage with and communicate with. Our adage is ‘work is what you do, not the place where you go’.
We will share buildings wherever we can with our public service partners, and encourage our frontline colleagues to do their office work where they can meet the public.
Every pound we save on running our estate is a pound we will not have to save from policing.
You can read my estates strategy here.
Police and Crime Commissioner