Saffron Walden police station may be shut and officers relocated in town

PUBLISHED: 09:12 16 October 2015 | UPDATED: 09:12 16 October 2015

Saffron Walden police station was affected by chemical fumes

Saffron Walden police station was affected by chemical fumes

Archant

After last week’s pledge that Saffron Walden will keep its police station, it now emerges that it may not be in the current building.

Announcing the closure of 15 police stations in the county, Essex’s Chief Constable, Stephen Kavanagh said: “We are getting rid of buildings which have more rodents than officers inside.”

Now his boss, Police and Crime Commissioner, Nick Alston has included the Saffron station as one of those with more vermin than staff.

He said: “Recent problems with wasps, rats and chemical fumes at Saffron Walden police station demonstrate that the Essex Police estate is ageing and often in need of significant maintenance work.

“Under the current proposals, Saffron Walden will maintain a policing base and front counter, but this does not necessarily mean that it has to be in the current building.

“Essex Police is already looking at options for co-locating with the local authority and other partners.”

Already, alarmed town leaders are asking the chief constable for a meeting with them to clarify the future of Saffron Walden Police Station. They want to know where it will be and what will happen to the present site.

A group including The Mayor, Councillor Heather Asker, have asked for a meeting with the police chief and are demanding “a continued police presence”. They say just having a front desk in Saffron Walden police station is not enough to police the town. It must be a centre for a full contingent of officers and police cars and it needs cells fit for purpose. The cells at Saffron Walden Police Station have been out of use for years and the custody suite used is at Braintree.

They are concerned at the “reduction in foot patrols” adding: “This makes marked police vehicles even more important. The sound of sirens is a deterrent in its own right.”

In a letter to Mr Kavanagh asking for an urgent meeting, they say: “Saffron Walden is an isolated corner of Essex. In a call out, both Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire could be nearer but they would not respond to an Essex call. Where will our support come from? How long will it take to get there? There will be few Essex Police passing through by nature of our location.”

They argue that cutting the police presence in the town could make it look as if less crime was being committed, but this will be deceptive. It would be because fewer offences are being be reported. Criminals from further afield would be attracted to easy targets.

As reported last week, Dunmow Police Station, which only seven years ago, cost 7.5million to build will close from April. It is likely to be replaced by another new, purpose built centre in Chelmsford.

Front desk jobs in the country are to be cut from 98 to 36. PCSOs will go down from 250 to 60. That’s just seven to cover Uttlesford and Braintree (down from 27).

Councillor Asker said: “This beggars belief. We are losing services hand over fist. It’s appalling. We still need a police presence. If you are a visitor to the town and you are in trouble, where is the first place you turn - it’s the police station. How third world do we have to be? The library isn’t open all the time either. So people can commit any crime they like on Wednesday afternoons or Sundays. Closing Dunmow Police Station after all the money spent on it is shocking.”

The other signatories are Peter Riding, Richard Porch and John Ready chairmen of Castle Street, Church Street and Bridge Street Residents’ Associations, and Councillors Mike Hibbs, Richard Freeman, Barbara Light and Sharon Morris.

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