Exciting plans for a ‘blue light hub’ in Wisbech were unveiled on Monday at a public meeting to discuss the proposals.
Jason Ablewhite, Cambridgeshire’s police and crime commissioner, outlined plans for a new police station which have been submitted to Fenland District Council for aproval.
The plan is to build an extension to the existing fire station on Churchill Road and relocate from the current police station off Nene Parade, which Mr Ablewhite said is no longer fit for purpose and costs £70,000 a year to run.
He also promised there would not only be a second response team for Fenland based in Wisbech, instead of the current one located in March, but there would also be more police in the town.
Mr Ablewhite said: “We understand Wisbech has unique challenges and we have to tackle on-going issues. This new blue light hub is about ensuring a presence in the town. The police station will be open to the public. The move is about cutting costs and investing savings in frontline services.
“There will be more officers working in Wisbech as part of the 50 extra constables being introduced from next year. I cannot give a figure yet, but there will definitely be more officers in the town – we acknowledge that Wisbech has been under-resourced.”
The ‘blue light hub’ will also see the ambulance service located alongside police and fire in what Mr Ablewhite said was a mutually beneficial arrangement.
“It won’t just be the police who benefit from reduced costs, but we will be sharing some resources which means fire and ambulance will also benefit,” said Mr Ablewhite, who pointed out that in Norfolk the police force was cutting all PCSO posts and closing half of its police stations.
“We are not in that position and I don’t intend that we will be – and certainly not in Wisbech.”
New sector leader Superintendent Andy Gipp was also at the meeting and he commented: “Don’t look at the plans and think you will never house 100 officers in that building – we shouldn’t be able to. I want our officers out on the streets and in the community, not sat behind desks.”
Mr Ablewhite said the aim is to relocate to the new building within the next two years and pointed out there would be no rent costs involved.
“At present we pay rent and running costs on a building that is not fit for purpose. To refurbish it and bring it up to standard would cost far more than the £500,000 we are spending on the new building.
“Our landlord is keen for us to move out and would be willing to contribute to the cost of the relocation.
“The building, which is part of the former magistrates’ court, could then be brought back into use, which would benefit the community.”
Most of the 30-plus members of the public and councillors at the meeting were in favour of the plans and felt they were positive for Wisbech.
However, a small faction were not impressed and argued the new building would be less accessible to the public because of its out-of-town location.
“If you are elderly or disabled then getting to the new building is not going to be easy. I think you need to go and speak to disabled groups in the town,” said Sue Dockett.
Mr Ablewhite agreed he would happily speak to any groups that wanted to know more about the proposals which will shortly go out to formal consultation.
The plans will be available for the public to see at Fenland’s One Stop Shop and online.3.