Using estates to connect communities and policing
In her latest blog, Alison Hernandez discusses the new developments happening in both counties.
As Police Crime Commissioner, I am responsible, on your behalf, for the police estate across Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
Re-provisioning police bases and improving the connectivity of the policing family has been at the heart of the Estates Strategy which was published at the end of 2017.
Last week I announced the sale of an eight-acre plot of land on the Police Headquarters at Middlemoor, Exeter which will be developed as a retail park by Hammerson, one of Europe’s largest retail property developers. My team and I have worked closely with the Force and Exeter City Council to ensure that these developments are in line with the city’s strategic plan. I am pleased that a large and trusted brand such as Hammerson are involved in the project – it brings a welcome certainty and means all our hard work to ensure our aspirations for the site are also consistent with Exeter City Council’s vision for the city.
The proceeds of this sale will be used to support the new £25 million criminal justice hub currently being developed on another part of the Middlemoor site.
These works on the south side are due to start soon and will include a modern 40-unit custody suite and will be part of the county headquarters approach to policing. I am excited about this opportunity to move officers away from the dilapidated and outdated facilities currently used at Heavitree Road in Exeter.
Connecting policing and communities is at the heart of our Police and Crime Plan which is why I want to ensure that the Exeter neighbourhood policing team have a base near the city centre. I’m planning for the local team to be co-located in Paris Street in the civic centre alongside our council colleagues.
I have also approved significant investment in new technology to help smarter working because living in a sparse and rural region can often make it hard to reach some of our communities and time spent driving back to a station to do work is not time well spent.
The Estates Strategy my team and I developed in 2017 is aimed at maintaining a police presence in the current locations. However, this may take on a different form as we continue to look for opportunities to work collaboratively with partners, especially our blue light partners - fire and ambulance.
We don’t want to waste our resources on old, expensive buildings which are sometimes bigger than we need when we can co-locate with partners and free up money to be for reinvestment in the service without reducing locations.
Earlier this year I joined the local policing team in Dartmouth at a coffee morning to showcase the temporary neighbourhood base in the St John’s Ambulance building to members of the pubic while construction on the new police station takes place in the town centre. The reality is that the old police station was under used, too big for the number of officers and unsustainable. It was no longer fit for purpose and we needed to find a way to get the best use out of the resources. Policing is by no means leaving Dartmouth, as part of the redevelopment there will be space for a permanent police station in the building.
Since taking on the role as commissioner I have remained dedicated to retaining a policing presence in our communities where we are already based and I look forward to seeing the new development in Dartmouth. In addition, at the Police and Crime Panel in February I announced that we will be exploring the development of a county police headquarters for Cornwall at Bodmin. This will be a similar facility to the one being constructed in Exeter.
This is a fantastic opportunity to help promote the unique identities of our counties and bring partners and the public even closer to police policy-making in the future.
There is a lot going on across our estate with some significant developments due to get underway soon. So, I wanted to be clear with you that the extra £1 per month we’ll all be paying in our council tax from April this year will be going to frontline policing.
By making the best use of the estate we own, it means that we are not wasting opportunities to better connect with our communities. It also ensures that every penny of increased funding from the tax payer can be used where it’s needed most - supporting officers and staff who work on the frontline.