THE shambles surrounding Hampshire police’s £9.6m headquarters has deepened with the revelation that its sale is on hold over the land being contaminated.
Alpha Park was sold in January subject to survey after being bought in 2008 when the force’s existing West Hill headquarters in Winchester was deemed not fit for purpose.
But The News can reveal the survey found the site in Chandler’s Ford is contaminated due to its previous industrial use. Now the sale price has been reduced as the buyer is carrying out work to fix the problem.
Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner Simon Hayes has said the price or details of the buyer cannot yet be revealed due to conditions of the sale.
But Alpha Park is being sold for less than it was bought for, costing the taxpayer even more after figures showed Hampshire police had spent £1.836m on the empty building by May last year.
Details of what the site is contaminated with have not been revealed.
John Apter, chairman of Hampshire Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said the building should never have been bought.
Mr Apter said: ‘I have said many times before that the Alpha Park saga has been an embarrassing and frustrating situation for the force to have been in, but it is positive that it is now being sold.
‘But to now find out that the constabulary has had to reduce the price because the land is contaminated just reinforces my initial thought that this was a building we should never have bought in the first place.’
Taxpayers Alliance spokesman Andy Silvester said: ‘This saga just drags on and on, with the taxpayer picking up an even bigger bill with each passing day.
‘When the force is under the same financial pressure as other public bodies, this kind of waste is simply unacceptable.
‘The force is right to try to cut its losses but that’ll be little consolation for hard-pressed local residents. ‘
As previously reported, Alpha Park was sold after a review requested by Mr Hayes found it would cost an estimated £15.75m to refurbish the site to the required standard.
Mr Hayes said: ‘The delay in the sale was because we had to sort out a programme of works to deal with the contamination on the land.
‘We have now sorted that out. We have agreed to reduce the price.’
He added: ‘I wasn’t involved in the purchase of Alpha Park. I made the decision that we should sell it.
‘We have got the best money we can for it and the money will be directly invested into frontline and neighbourhood policing across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
‘I have got an estates strategy and part of that is to make a new build, state-of-the-art police presence in Portsmouth. Although Alpha Park is not in Portsmouth it is all part of the estates strategy.
‘We have got rid of it – it is a liability to the public purse.’
Mr Hayes said a suitable site for the police investigation centre is being searched for in Portsmouth, but the delay in Alpha Park being sold is in no way linked to works not yet having started on the centre.
He added: ‘We have sites we are looking at and negotiating on.’
The Audit Commission scrutinised the now defunct Hampshire Police Authority’s decision to buy Alpha Park.
But the commission concluded that the decision to purchase the building was not unreasonable. It is hoped the sale will be completed by the end of October.
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