New police investigation centre announced for Portsmouth

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A NEW police investigation centre will be built in Portsmouth as part of an overhaul of Hampshire Constabulary’s estate.

The plans were announced today following a review by the Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Hayes.

NO GO Alpha Park in Electron Way, Chandler's Ford, Hampshire.

NO GO Alpha Park in Electron Way, Chandler's Ford, Hampshire.

The plans include:

· downsizing the current police headquarters in Winchester to a smaller office at Mottisfont Court in Winchester

· selling the Alpha Park site

· building two new Police Investigation Centres (PICs) in Portsmouth and Basingstoke to provide short term custodial care and support quicker processing of detainees

· building on successful partnerships with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and local councils enabling officers and staff to work from alternative locations such as at libraries and fire stations

· progressing with a programme of engagement with local people, to discuss moving Safer Neighbourhoods Teams (SNTs) into the heart of the communities they serve.

Alpha Park near Eastleigh was bought for £9.6m in 2008 after the force’s West Hill headquarters in Winchester was deemed not fit for purpose.

The force has since spent £1.836m on Alpha Park, which has stood empty for almost five years.

The estimated cost of refurbishing the site is £15.75m and it will now be sold.

John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, today branded the money spent on Alpha Park as ‘disgraceful’.

He said: ‘I welcome the fact that the decision has at long last been made but we cannot ignore the fact that the decision to purchase Alpha Park did not have universal support.

‘In my opinion it was not the best location to have a police headquarters, which is what it was built for.

‘We now know that the police authority spent £3m more than it was worth. In addition to that, since it has been left empty, there has been a further cost of £1.8m at a time when police officer numbers are being reduced and police staff are being made redundant.

‘It sticks in the throat how such public money can be wasted and thrown away. It could have been put to better use and lessons must be learned from this.’

But Mr Hayes said: ‘Today is about a new direction and building the right foundations for the future.

‘That means getting rid of back office buildings that we don’t need and investing in new facilities and partnerships that will help us to make Hampshire and the Isle of Wight safer places.

‘It was a decision made by the previous police authority. It is now not needed for future police across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. So I have decided the building will be sold as soon as possible and we will aim to realise as much as we can for it. That money will be ploughed back into policing across Hampshire and the island.’

Asked whether the £11m spent on Alpha Park was justified, chief constable Andy Marsh told The News: ‘When Alpha Park was purchased in 2008, we employed almost 1,000 more people.

‘The comprehensive spending review which requires me to save £55m in the budget had not been announced. The world has changed a lot.

‘I think we would be more justifiably criticised than now not reviewing that decision and changing our mind if it does not look like the right thing to do now.’

He said local safer neighbourhood teams could be moved to venues such as fire stations and libraries as has happened on Hayling Island. But there was no plans to close any more front desks.

The custody suite at Fareham will be refurbished under the plans.

He said the police investigation centre in Portsmouth would make the streets safer.

Mr Marsh added: ‘These are places we can take those arrested and question them about the offences of which they are suspected.

‘We bring them to bear for the consequences for their offending behaviour and we bring them to justice quickly.

‘These new buildings will mean we can do that quickly. What we want it a custody centre where we can efficiently wrap investigation services round the people they are investigating and get the cops back out on the streets.

‘So it’s actually going to make the communities of Portsmouth safer in my view.’

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Chief Officer, John Bonney, said: ‘I am delighted that Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and Hampshire Constabulary are working together in this way. It clearly demonstrates our commitment to work in partnership to make our communities safer and find ever more efficient ways to do so.’