Belfast Telegraph

More police stations may close in Northern Ireland, says PSNI chief Hamilton

By Adrian Rutherford

A fresh round of police station closures could be on the cards, the Chief Constable has warned.

George Hamilton said a further review of the police estate was planned for 2017.

It is possible additional stations could be shut, Northern Ireland's top police officer admitted.

Earlier this month it was announced that 12 which had closed in recent months would be sold off.

The plan is aimed at raising £1.5 million and saving £600,000 on annual running costs.

The move is part of the 2016 PSNI estate strategy.

A decade ago there were 140 police stations in Northern Ireland. Now there are fewer than half that number.

As of August 2015 there were two full-time stations and 59 with limited opening hours.

Since then the 12 have been permanently closed and will be sold, including Castlederg, Cushendall and Ballyclare.

Mr Hamilton said: "There are currently no further planned closures of stations other than the 12 sites identified in the 2016 estate strategy.

"As part of normal business, the size and location of estate facilities will be reviewed again during 2017.

"It is possible that further stations may be identified for closure during this review.

"However, as the estate footprint has reduced so significantly over the past 10 years, the potential for further rationalisation is limited."

The current police estate is worth £445m. The PSNI is set to spend an estimated £90m on estate-related works in the next three years.

Mr Hamilton was questioned on his long-term vision for the police estate by the Policing Board earlier this month.

He added: "In summary, the long-term strategy for the PSNI is to have a fit-for-purpose estate with the right facilities in the right place to support delivery of policing services with the community.

"A key component of this strategy is progression towards normalisation of the police estate, as the security situation allows."

Mr Hamilton said it was difficult to predict the PSNI's need going forward.

This was due to changes in operational demand, technology and financial pressures. He added: "The PSNI has tried to take a pragmatic, operational and community-focused approach in deciding on the number, size and location of stations required to provide an appropriate working platform from which to deliver policing services."

The 2016 PSNI estate strategy outlines plans for major and minor works, custody provision and proposed station disposals up until 2019.

It will see new police stations in Armagh, Cookstown and Ballymena.

It also includes the redevelopment of facilities at the Police College in Garnerville and new custody provision in Craigavon and Waterside. The Policing Board is the legal owner of the police estate and is responsible for approving all acquisitions and disposals.

Policing Board chair Anne Connolly said: "While policing is not about bricks and mortar, an effective police service must have the necessary range of buildings to support its work."

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