Police have reassured residents that they are not planning to cut the number of officers on patrol in east Suffolk, despite axing a number of police stations.
Both Saxmundham and Aldeburgh will be losing their stations, the latest communities to do so – both destined to make way for housing. But the stations are not open to the public – except for advertised drop-in surgeries or public forum meetings – and are mainly used as a base and office accommodation for police officers who are working in the area. The force said the presence of officers in communities would not be reduced, and it was seeking alternative and more cost-efficient accommodation for the teams.
Many of the smaller town and village police stations around the county are too big and expensive – especially their heating – to run. Suffolk Constabulary has applied for permission to knock down Saxmundham police station and use its quarter-of-an-acre site to build four new homes. One pair of semi-detached homes would face on to Station Approach and the other on to New Cut. Town councillors though are against the demolition and want the single-storey building listed as a “community asset” so they can spearhead plans to use it as a possible youth centre.
Permission is also being sought to demolish Aldeburgh police station in Leiston Road, Aldeburgh, and replace it with five detached homes.
It is understood that negotiations are taking place to provide new accommodation for officers patrolling the Saxmundham area in the Fromus Centre, while talks are also under way over a new location in Aldeburgh.
Suffolk Constabulary is aiming to make the new premises in market towns more central and convenient, as well as being cheaper. Consent was given previously for the police station in Badingham Road, Framlingham, to be converted into a house with a new house built on land alongside. A deal was struck for accommodation for the police officers at the town’s fire station. Approval was also given last summer for Bungay police station to be replaced with a two-storey house. Arrangements were made for a Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) office elsewhere in the town.
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said: “Firstly, and most importantly, I must stress that any changes to our police station provision will not affect policing levels in the county. I am totally committed to maintaining the SNT cover throughout the county and that is definitely not up for negotiation. We have sold several of our ageing police stations and replaced them with offices shared with partners. Our joint police/fire stations in Framlingham, Elmswell, Debenham and Ixworth are good examples, as is the SNT office in the Mid Suffolk District Council office in Needham Market and the one at Hartismere Hospital. I am committed to working with local communities to find alternative uses for the redundant stations and looking for creative and innovative ways to maximise the opportunities that present themselves through changes to the Constabulary’s estate. I will always ensure that we get the very best value for the council tax payer, sometimes this will be financial value and in other cases it may be community benefit. This is an integral part of my Police and Crime Plan.”