THE cost of a major new police hub has increased by £13m since the concept was first drawn up, The News can reveal.
Portsmouth’s police investigation centre, being built on leased land at Merlin Park, off Airport Service Road in Copnor, is set to cost £31.4m by the time it is finished next spring in an increase branded ‘disappointing’.
It’s disappointing bearing in mind the shortage of police and funding for policeCrime panel member Trevor Cartwright
Designs have changed ‘significantly’, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner said. The office insists the scheme would be provided at ‘no cost to the public’ as it was paid for by selling off other police estate.
Plans for the police investigation centre, set to house custody cells and investigations teams with around 430 staff and officers moving in, were in 2014 publicly given an £18m price tag.
But papers seen by The News show by 2015 this had increased to £24m. Details of costs requested by The News under freedom of information law found by August 2017 this cost had gone to £31.4m.
Around £28.4m is budgeted for construction, £1.4m in professional fees, £600,000 for IT and £1m for furniture.
The centre in Basingtoke was due to cost £24m in 2015, but this went up to £27.2m on completion in 2016.
Back in 2014 papers shown to Hampshire’s police and crime panel said each building would cost just £18m apiece.
Panel member and Fareham councillor Trevor Cartwright said: ‘It’s disappointing bearing in mind the shortage of police and funding for police.’
Cllr Cartwright said building materials, labour and associated costs had been increasing generally but added: ‘As far as the public are concerned, they want to see more police on the beat.’
A spokeswoman for police and crime commissioner Michael Lane’s office, which has responsibility for estates, said: ‘The design of the police investigation centres has changed significantly, and in comparison to the original concept they are now able to accommodate the necessary teams of police officers and staff that are needed to support the new investigation and custody facilities, as well as supporting the wider ongoing operational need.
‘The police investigation centres enable more effective and efficient policing, also ensuring that critical policing services remain focused in supporting key areas of demand across the Hampshire policing area.’
She said the wider estates shake-up would give a £2m a year saving from 2021.
John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, said: ‘It doesn’t surprise me that the cost has rocketed so much because over four years the cost of materials, labour and other ancillary costs will inevitably increase.
‘But also Hampshire Constabulary, for decades, has failed to invest in a police estate which is fit for purpose and to play catch-up in some small part, we will have to pay for it.’
He said it ‘troubles’ him that more types of teams are not based at the PICs.
SITE WAS ONE OF 36 LOOKED AT
Police will move into the investigation centre next year, providing building work continues apace.
But the finding of the site had proven challenging.
A spokeswoman for the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner said: ‘Of the 36 sites in the Portsmouth area we reviewed as potential locations for the Eastern PIC and the 11 we analysed in detail, Merlin Park was the only appropriate site, which we were able to progress successfully.
‘Developing this site maintains our commitment to the people of Portsmouth that we will provide appropriate policing and custody facilities within the city, replacing outdated accommodation.
‘The design of the PIC has changed significantly to ensure that it is fit for the future, building on improvements to the specification made following the development of the Northern PIC in Basingstoke.
‘The Police and Crime Panel receive regular updates on the Estates Change Programme Strategy and plans for the Eastern PIC have been presented to the panel in public.
‘It also formed part of the report behind this decision notice which is publicly available on the commissioner’s website. However the financial detail was and remains commercially confidential.
‘Hampshire Constabulary will benefit from £2m savings a year from 2021 through the Estates Changes Programme, which is being delivered at no cost to the public through reinvestment of funds generated by restructuring the police estate.’
LONG-RUNNING PLAN TO MOVE
PLANS were revealed for the police investigation centre in Portsmouth in 2013.
It marries with two others, one in Southampton that saw its main station refurbished, and a purpose-built site in Basingstoke.
The three PICs were designed to house custody cells and investigations teams for the three areas of the county, split into eastern, western and northern teams.
Around 430 people will be based at the one in Portsmouth, dubbed the eastern police investigation centre.
But Portsmouth’s plans repeatedly hit setbacks – with the building having been due to open in April 2016. Delays led to remedial works needing to be carried out at ‘substandard’ Fratton station, in Kingston Crescent.
Proposals to build the PIC in Havant at Broadmarsh industrial estate, sparked a backlash. That axed move could have left Portsea Island without any police stations, following the closure of Southsea station in Highland Road.
When assessing 36 sites for a home, police were prepared to buy contaminated land – an unwelcome spectre for police who in 2014 had to pause the sale of the white elephant Alpha Park, which was empty for five years costing them £1.8m, as it was on contaminated land. It was meant to have been headquarters – but officers ditched that plan for shared offices with the fire service at Eastleigh.
When the PIC opens, it will replace both Fratton, and Portsmouth Central in Winston Churchill Avenue. Response and patrol officers are based at Cosham. Neighbourhood police in the city are now at Southsea fire station, and Medina House in Cosham.
District commander Supt Maggie Blyth and her team are based at Portsmouth Guildhall.