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Twelve police stations to be sold in cost-saving drive

Twelve police stations across Northern Ireland are being sold as part of new cost-saving measures.

The stations at Aughnacloy, Ballyclare, Ballynahinch, Castlederg, Cushendall, Maghera, Moira, Portaferry, Tandragee, Warrenpoint, Willowfield and York Road in Belfast are already closed to the public and do not have officers or staff working in them.

The move will generate an estimated £1.5 million for the Northern Ireland Policing Board which owns the police estate and result in annual savings of about £600,000.

Policing Board chair, Anne Connolly said : " Whilst policing is not about bricks and mortar, an effective police service must have the necessary range of buildings to support its work. Part of our role is to ensure that the PSNI operate efficiently so we need to be satisfied that the plans for the current estate and future investment in it meet policing need and demand.

"The disposal of 12 station sites which are currently sitting closed delivers welcome returns of about £1.5 million back into the pocket of the PSNI with a significant saving each year on running costs."

The three-year strategy for the £445 million estate also includes plans to invest in three new police stations at Armagh, Cookstown and Ballymena; the redevelopment of facilities at the Police College in Garnerville and a new custody provision in Craigavon and the Waterside in Londonderry.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said: "We are aware that the permanent closure and disposal of stations is an emotive issue and can have an effect on community confidence.

"I'd like to reassure the public that these 12 stations are no longer being used by police operationally and formally disposing of them will save money, such as bills incurred from utility services.

"Times have changed, and due to advancements in modern technology as well as continuing budgetary restraints, the police service continues to look at new ways of providing the most effective service to the public in the most cost efficient way."

ACC Martin said advances in technology mean crimes are being reported online while social media provides an opportunity to interact with officers at all levels.

The PSNI also operates 32 Facebook pages, 35 Twitter feeds as well as YouTube and Instagram accounts with more than 650,000 followers.

ACC Martin added: "The reality is that nearly all policing services are delivered outside of stations. Policing isn't about buildings, it is about officers working with the community in order to protect them, prevent crime and detect criminals.

"The PSNI, like all public services, has faced substantial financial reductions and disposing of these stations will assist us to live within the Police budget.

"The amount of money allocated to the PSNI annually to police Northern Ireland has reduced significantly in recent years. We are now being asked to plan for potential further cuts in 2017/18.

"All routine policing will carry on. We will patrol in vehicles and on foot, carry out searches, arrest criminals and the public will continue to see police on a daily basis."

Meanwhile, West Tyrone MLA Michaela Boyle welcomed news that Castlederg station is among those being sold.

She said: "Sinn Fein has long campaigned for the removal of this station, which has been a massive drain on the public purse.

"This militarised barracks, which has been laying empty, contributes nothing to civic and accountable policing in Castlederg.

"Now that this site is being sold I would like to see it being used in a way that enhances and develops the local community in the village."

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