Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Northern Ireland's police base sell-off

These are the 26 police stations the PSNI is wanting to sell off within the coming months.

Policing Board members are to be asked tomorrow to endorse the proposal to permanently shut the stations and sell them off as soon as possible as part of an ongoing review of the police estate.

If the plan receives Policing Board backing the stations — Greencastle, Mountpottinger, Greyabbey, Dromara, Toomebridge, Templepatrick, Loughgall, Markethill, Rathfriland, Bessbrook, Portadown, Belcoo, Belleek, Coagh, Fivemiletown, Kesh, Newtownbutler, Pomeroy, Stewartstown, Bellaghy, Claudy, Donemana, Newtownstewart, Portstewart, Kells and Kilrea — will be placed for sale and sold off as soon as possible.

The PSNI said that 20 of the proposed stations are no longer in use while five are open on a “limited and variable basis”. Only one of the stations, Bessbrook, is fully operational and open to the public.

Proposals for further closures are expected to be placed before the board within the next few months, leading to more than 40 stations being shut and sold off within the next two years.

The PSNI believes the move will save millions of pounds which could be used to improve frontline policing.

Government departments and statutory agencies will have first refusal of a site at a price fixed by the Land and Property Services.

If there is no interest and if the sale is taking place within 25 years of the site having been acquired, consideration is given to offering the site to the previous owner.

The plans are likely to cause a split within the Policing Board with unionist members unhappy about the widespread closures.

DUP board member Jimmy Spratt said the move could make it impossible for the police to respond properly to criminal or terrorist incidents and make it easier for dissident republicans to operate particularly in the Fermanagh area where the dissident threat remains high.

Earlier this year the dissident threat in Co Fermanagh was deemed so serious that the PSNI applied for planning permission to increase security at Lisnaskea station by raising the steel fence around the building by 2.5 metres.

“It is of paramount importance that all alternative policing arrangements must be viable in all circumstances, especially in the west of the province which has witnessed the greatest activity from dissident republicans,” Mr Spratt said.

“Essentially, if these proposals were implemented they would not only have a detrimental impact upon the officers on the ground but also on the community.

“A visible and accessible policing service is essential to build confidence in policing. Surely the lack of clarity in these proposals for alternative policing arrangements suggested by the PSNI will neither enhance engagements with the community nor improve effectiveness on the ground.”

Sinn Fein, however, agrees with the plan. Policing Board member Alex Maskey said many of the stations on the list were unwanted legacies of the past that “had become blots on the landscape”.

The PSNI does not need to get the approval of the board because it is an operational matter. However, the board is legally responsible for the buildings and could refuse the request to dispose of them.

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