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Opposition grows as Policing Board asked to endorse station sell-off

Opposition was mounting today to PSNI proposals to sell off 26 police stations across Northern Ireland.

The Policing Board is to be asked later this week to endorse plans to sell the stations.

It is understood the stations earmarked for closure are Greencastle, Mountpottinger, Greyabbey, Dromara, Toomebridge, Templepatrick, Loughgall, Markethill, Rathfriland, Bessbrook, Portadown, Belcoo, Beleek, Coagh, Fivemiletown, Kesh, Newtownbutler, Pomeroy, Stewartstown, Bellaghy, Claudy, Donemana, Newtownstewart, Portstewart, Kells and Kilrea.

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

The DUP today raised concerns over the plans saying that 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.

Jimmy Spratt MLA said he is particularly concerned about the closure of four stations in Fermanagh. He added that while he accepted some rationalisation of stations was needed closures should not happen until alternative arrangements are in place and while the dissident threat remains high.

“The Chief Constable has said on a number of occasions that the threat from dissident republicans in Fermanagh is very high, so it doesn't make sense to us to close these stations.

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“We are very concerned that the police will not have enough cover if that threat increases. We hope that doesn't happen, but the police have to plan for all eventualities and we don't think they are doing that,” said Mr Spratt.

A PSNI spokesman said: “The Police Service developed an estate strategy in 2005 to cover the period to 2010. This was endorsed by the Policing Board . The strategy is a balance of investment in new-builds, such as the recently opened £16m station in Omagh; of refurbishments and a review of existing stations. This review is on the basis of the operational need of commanders in districts, the condition of buildings and the cost of running these buildings.”

The spokesman added: “The Service will be seeking the Board's endorsement for the disposal of the stations. Twenty are no longer in use. Five are open on a limited and variable basis. Only one — Bessbrook — is fully operational and open to the public.”

Sinn Fein agrees with the plan.

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