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Exeter police station to open early as part of response to coronavirus crisis

Exeter's award-winning new police station is to open a fortnight early because its state-of-the-art custody cells are better for isolating detainees with coronavirus symptoms than those currently in use.

Police officers and staff have been working around the clock to bring forward the opening of the custody centre and public enquiry office at the £29m Sidmouth Road building, which had been due on April 22.

From 8am on Tuesday, April 7, the front desk at Exeter’s Heavitree Road station will close and the service transferred to the new station, which is next to Devon and Cornwall Police’s Middlemoor headquarters.

The custody centre has 40 cells over four wings, so those with Covid-19 symptoms can be isolated from other detainees. It is made of modern materials so is easier to keep clean and is far more spacious than the facility at Heavitree Road. Some cells are equipped with cameras that monitor life signs, and an audio visual system across the entire custody suite helps to ensure the safety of officers and those in their care.

The station hosts the country’s newest virtual court, meaning trials can continue despite the lockdown.

Although Coronavirus means police are asking people not to attend the station in person unless absolutely necessary, those who do need to visit will be able to access a modern and clean public enquiry office.

Initially around 45 officers and staff will move. Ultimately 500 officers and staff from various departments serving Exeter, East and Mid Devon will be based there.

“In a crisis our police force has demonstrated an ability to be extraordinarily agile, and the early opening of the station is an example of that,” said Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner who gave the project the green light in 2016.

“There has been a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes to make this happen – mostly around IT systems, and I’d like to thank those who have put in a Herculean effort to make this happen as one part of our response to this serious public health crisis.”

The police station is thought to be the most sustainable police building in the UK and is in the top 10% of all buildings for sustainability. It uses 22% less energy than a traditional building of the same size, generates 68kwh of electricity a year from solar panels and carbon generated from its construction has been offset.

In February the police station project won a prestigious Concrete Society civil engineering award for its use of recycled materials, custody fabrication and finish.