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Border police station closed by stealth, say shocked politicians

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 24/09/2016

Castlederg police station
Castlederg police station

The PSNI has been criticised over the "stealth" closure of a border police station.

Castlederg barracks has been non-operational since February.

A senior officer confirmed it had shut after enquiries from the Belfast Telegraph into its running costs.

However, the news came as a surprise to some local MLAs.

DUP MLA Tom Buchanan, who had led the fight to keep the station open, said he was shocked and angered after he was told that it had been closed since February.

Ulster Unionist MLA Ross Hussey added that he had been told the facility was still available for use.

Sinn Fein also appear to have been unaware that the base had been closed.

Earlier this week, the party's West Tyrone MLA Michaela Boyle issued a statement headlined: "Boyle calls for closure of Castlederg police station".

It came after Ms Boyle discovered around £850,000 had been spent on the upkeep of the station over the last five years - even though it has been vacant for much of that time.

PSNI Chief Inspector Ivor Morton said: "Castlederg station was included in the service-wide estate review in 2015.

"As it was no longer a reporting station and had not been for a number of years, the station was closed in February of this year.

"Prior to this date it had been used as a base for the local neighbourhood policing team and as a temporary base for officers policing events in the area. The majority of costs relate to rates, some of which we are in the process of claiming back."

Mr Buchanan said the news had come as a shock to him.

"My understanding was that it was still being utilised by the neighbourhood policing teams and others, and that it wasn't just closed completely," he added. "This is a station closing by stealth."

The Police said that the local Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) was told the station had closed. A spokesperson added: "The PCSP was made aware of the decision to make the station non-operational earlier this year.

"No decision around the long-term future of the station has been made."

But Mr Buchanan said it came as news to him. "I wasn't aware of this - it was my understanding the station was still open for neighbourhood policing and for a base for policing any time it was required," he added.

"To come now and say that it is closed is alarming news and something that I will take up with the police.

"I have been vocal on this police station's closure and yet I haven't got so much as a letter from any member of the PSNI to inform me of this.

"It is an absolute disgrace that the PSNI has not sought to consult with local representatives on this."

Mr Hussey, who also represents West Tyrone, has submitted questions to the Policing Board on the matter.

He said he had been given assurances that the station was still open.

"The police told me that the station was going to be used on the Last Saturday in August as a base for the police for their operation for the Last Saturday, and that the station would still be maintained for various parades and any other incidents that might occur in the Castlederg area," he explained.

Castlederg PSNI station has been shut to the public for some time, but was used on occasions as a base for officers.

The station was first earmarked for closure back in 2011, but was subsequently retained in 2012.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on maintaining the site.

In the last five years, the bill totalled some £847,314. This comprised £232,596 maintenance costs and £614,718 spent on rates and utilities.

The figures were disclosed by Justice Minister Claire Sugden after an Assembly question from Ms Boyle.

Belfast Telegraph

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