Picture caption: Falmouth police station’s ‘front desk’ was one of six reopened across Devon and Cornwall earlier this year
While these stations, in rural and coastal locations across Devon and Cornwall, had been operational bases, the police enquiry offices (front desks) had been closed may years ago and the staff moved or made redundant.
A cornerstone of my police and crime plan is connectivity. People want a police service that is visible and accessible and when we have reopened a front desk they love the idea there is somewhere they can go to seek help, report crime or get advice on crime prevention.
So when the opportunity to rebuild a police station in Exmouth, Devon’s biggest town, arose, there was no way it was going to be without a front desk. Earlier this month I decided, with the Chief Constable, to fund a full rebuild of the station. The project will cost an estimated £5.1m and follows new station builds in Liskeard, Exeter, and Barnstaple.
The ageing station complex which will be replaced includes a disused magistrates court and a mothballed civil defence shelter. It is occupied by officers but currently members of the public cannot enter without an appointment. Maintenance costs over the next 25 years have been estimated at more than £3m.
The plans will see the 0.4 hectares of the site sold for redevelopment and a two-storey building built on 0.2 hectares of the site. The new station would be built to the BREAM Excellent specification, meaning it is within the top 10% of new buildings in terms of environmental standards.
The new station will be the operational base for about 60 officers and staff including response officers, neighbourhood officers, Police Community Support Officers and Special Constables.
My estates team is preparing to seek expressions of interest from contractors who may be interested in submitting a full tender for the project.
This project makes sense from every angle. Exmouth is Devon’s largest town and sees a huge increase in its population in the summer months. The teams based there, and the community they serve, deserve a station which is fit for the 21st Century, less harmful to the environment and cheaper to run.
As with other police station building projects, I am insisting that a significant proportion of the public monies that we are investing in this project go to local businesses so that money benefits the local economy. As a side benefit the release of brownfield development land will help fund the build and means additional housing can be provided in the town without greenfield sites being developed.
When I carried out a public survey to determine which of the 58 possible locations the public would most like to see a police enquiry office opened once again Exmouth came eighth, so there is clearly public enthusiasm for this project.
I will now be working with the local community to engage them with plans before a formal application is submitted to East Devon District Council.
While that project is in the development phase the project to reopen police enquiry desks in Devonport (Plymouth), Looe, Ilfracombe, Honiton, Okehampton and Kingsbridge in the next few months is gathering pace.
The six police enquiry offices we reopened in 2022-23 created 24 part time police enquiry officer vacancies, and so refitting the stations is as much about people as it is real estate.
Reopening stations to the public takes time, money, perseverance and engagement with our communities but I and our Chief Constable remain absolutely committed to bolstering public confidence in our force, ensuring people can access officer and staff in their communities is a key part of delivering on that.