Finally a line can be drawn under this sorry saga

COMMENT: Attraction will capitalise on the riches in our midst

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Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter calls it a ‘festering sore’, while it has been branded a ‘toxic asset’ by the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes.

It’s hard not to agree with their assessments.

It was way back in 2008 that Hampshire police spent £9m of taxpayers’ money buying Alpha Park near Eastleigh, with a plan to use it to replace its outdated Winchester headquarters.

But what has happened?

Ever since then the building has stood empty and has cost the county force more than £1.8m just to keep it secure.

So we have to be pleased to report today that Alpha Park has now been sold, albeit at a loss.

Finally, it is off the force’s hands.

A review by Mr Hayes found it would have cost an estimated £15.75m to refurbish the site to the required standard.

The Audit Commission may have concluded that Hampshire Police Authority’s decision to purchase the building was not unreasonable, but we feel questions remain about why exactly Alpha Park was bought in the first place and for so much.

Perhaps we’ll never know the answer.

But finally now a line can be drawn under this sorry saga and the police can plan their future estates strategy without the millstone that is Alpha Park hanging heavily around their necks.

Rather than standing unused and draining cash, the sale of the site means money will become available to help revamp other force properties as part of a properly thought-out estates strategy formulated by Mr Hayes.

But even when the ‘sold’ sign goes up, that’s not the end of the matter. Far from it.

The next challenge for Hampshire police is to offload its present HQ at West Hill in Winchester.

In a worrying echo of what’s happened with Alpha Park, Mottisfont Court in the city remains empty more than a year after being bought for £1.5m as a replacement for West Hill.

Quite simply, it needs to be brought into service as quickly as possible.