Wisbech Police Station is to stay put rather than move to the proposed 'blue-light hub' at the town's fire station
Cambridgeshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Jason Ablewhite has defended his decision to keep Wisbech police station where it is rather than re-locate it to a purpose-built 'blue-light hub'.
It is now over two years since Mr Ablewhite announced his plan to put police and fire services under one roof on the site of Wisbech Fire Station but this week he confirmed the move has now been shelved.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Citizen Mr Ablewhite defended his decision and said in the long run policing in Wisbech would be better off.
However, he did admit the failed 'blue -light hub' bid had cost taxpayers around £40,000 in planning costs as the move had got as far as gaining planning permission and was due to go out to tender this time last year.
But Mr Ablewhite said the policing needs of Wisbech have changed and the hub, which would have been a small extension on the side of the fire station would not have been large enough to accommodate extra officers, nor was there room to expand going forward.
He said there are already six extra officers now based at Wisbech Police Station with more to come in the next year. The six are from the extra 105 police officers who have joined the county's police force in the past year and with the latest increase in the police precept for this year there will be 50 more joining in 2019/2020. How many of those will join Fenland policing is not yet clear.
Mr Ablewhite said the county's force now has the most officers it has ever had, 1496 compared to the previous high of 1,402.
He also said closer operational working with Norfolk and Lincolnshire forces could also see Wisbech police station becoming home to officers from those counties, particularly if Norfolk decides to close its station at Terrington St John.
Remaining at the current site will also save at least £750,000 which can be spent elsewhere within the force. The original estimate for the 'blue-light hub'was £500,000 but he said that had risen to nearer £1 million.
Work to bring the current police station, which has a peppercorn rent, up to scratch, including redecorating, will cost around £250,000. However, it will not include re-opening the cells as their position underground does not meet government standards and Mr Ablewhite said it costs around £145,000 to operate a custody suite and therefore it is not worth it locally.
And while he may have given up on the 'blue-light hub' Mr Ablewhite is still keen to see the area's emergency services working more closely together and pointed to the training facility at Monks Wood, which will be used by both police and fire.
"I hope the facility will become an exemplar for other services to follow and I have not given up my drive for 'blue-light hubs' where there is an opportunity to do it," he said.
Finally Mr Ablewhite gave the people of Fenland the reassurance that both Wisbech and March police stations are safe on his watch, with March also set for extra officers.
And he concluded: "People can be assured that we evaluate where every £1 of their money is spent to ensure best value."