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Wiltshire looks to reverse station closures due to shared space failure

Wiltshire is reviewing its estate strategy due to concerns over a shared space deal. It may end up buying back a station sold for £1.

Wiltshire’s estates team is about to begin a review of its stations because current arrangements are not fit for purpose.

The force’s new Police and Crime Commissioner has ordered the force to re-look at station provision after concerns from the Fed and the public.

Philip Wilkinson said: “I’ve asked the Chief Constable, and his leadership team, to conduct an immediate review of operational police estate in Salisbury and the south of the county.”

The review will look at operational bases and whether a new building could be bought or rented.

Frontline officers have warned the space they use in a council building is inadequate.

His decision re-opens a long-running battle over the force’s stations – and the budget needed to fund them.

A rationalisation programme had moved officers to the Salisbury site of Wiltshire Council and into a university building. In total, four stations were closed.

But in March, councillors sought to delay the sale of a mothballed station site in Warminster which had been earmarked for a developer. It had previously been sold to a community college for £1 as part of a budget plan to reduce the force’s costs.

But the college had collapsed leaving the building empty.

The councillors - who have already asked the force it they want it back - plan to have it listed as a community interest building which restricts what can happen to it.

The force’s Federation has warned the current council office share isn’t working.

Fed Chair Mark Andrews told Police Oracle: “It’s not designed as a police station. There isn’t an area where we can bring someone in to search them. We need an area to conduct interviews that’s relatively quiet.”

One of the arguments for a shared base is that the two organisations would work better together.

Mr Andrews said: “It doesn’t work. We can’t solve the community’s problems alone so we have to work in partnership but we don’t have to be in the same building to do that.”

The review will look at options including renting or buying a building that could be quickly adapted.

Mr Andrews said: “A good review needs to understand what is available. Building a new station will take years and will cost a huge amount of money. We need it sooner rather than later.”

The PCC said he wants neighbourhood and response teams in the south of the county to be more visible and has set out out the review’s terms with Chief Constable Kier Pritchard.

He said: “We have discussed how the review should look at the existing estate and whether the current police accommodation is fit-for-purpose for an agile police workforce in the 21st century.”

“This review will recommend what we need to invest in so that both the Chief Constable, and I, can ensure frontline staff have what they need to keep our communities safe and remain fit for modern-day policing.”

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