Concern raised over the sale of land at Hampshire police’s proposed new headquarters

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HAMPSHIRE Police Authority could lose millions if it pushes forward with plans to sell a site previously earmarked for a new force headquarters, it is claimed.

Alpha Park at Chandlers Ford has sat empty since being bought by the organisation - which holds the purse strings for policing in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight - three years ago.

The eight-acre site was set to be developed into a new headquarters for Hampshire Constabulary to replace dilapidated West Hill in Winchester.

As reported in The News, plans to sell off two thirds of the site are now being considered as the force battles to save up to £50m due to the government’s spending squeeze.

But reports from before the purchase was agreed show the police authority paid £9.2m - above the market value for the site. An independent valuation said it was only worth £6.6m.

John Apter, chairman of Hampshire Police Federation, said: ‘The police authority and the constabulary spent tax payers’ money in purchasing the site and I think they are duty bound to make the best possible use of it.

‘Now if they decide that they need to sell some off then they must do that in the right climate where any money that they recover covers the original costs and allows the tax payer to see the benefits rather than a financial loss.’

The district auditor said the police authority was not reckless in making the decision, but did not approve it.

But Hampshire Police Authority chairwoman Jacqui Rayment said the site was bought in ‘good faith’ - and a decision has not yet been made on whether to sell part of the land.

Councillor Rayment said: ‘This site became available there was other interest at that point in time, and also the main owner of the site was planning to revamp and do quite a bit of work to the site, so if we wanted it at the price that we were looking at then we had to take that decision.’

After eight years of searching for a new headquarters, the authority decided on Alpha Park. However despite being empty for the last three years, there is no plan to open the forces new on the eight acre site.

Cllr Rayment added: ‘We haven’t made a decision to sell of part of the land. What we have said is, as part of the whole estates programme if we need to sell of some of the land that we now don’t need because we are reshaping the whole estate, that’s right across the two counties, then that is obviously what we will do. ‘

The police authority is drawing up plans for what it could use the Chandlers Ford site for, if not for a new headquarters.

If part of the Alpha Park site is sold, the police authority’s preferred option is to turn the remainder into a centre for Hampshire Constabulary’s driving school, force enquiry centre, base for scenes of crime, vehicle workshops, uniform stores, a central archive facility and printing.