Recruiting more police officers, sharing the fire station and a new enquiry office at the ambulance station are among new plans for policing Leighton Buzzard which were announced by Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway at a public meeting in the town this evening.
It was also revealed that Central Beds Council is in the process of purchasing the current police station site in Hockliffe Road.
In a statement issued following the meeting, Mrs Holloway said: “I have always said that we need a new approach to policing our third largest town in the county and that’s exactly what Bedfordshire Police will be unveiling, making a genuine additional deployment in terms of more visible Community Policing and confirming a long-term commitment to a police presence in Leighton Buzzard.”
The PCC was joined by Deputy Chief Constable Mark Collins and Superintendent Sharn Basra at the public meeting at Leighton Buzzard Cricket Club from 6.30pm.
DCC Collins unveiled new police recruitment plans and details of a Community Policing Hub in the town. Supt Basra briefed the audience on current work in Leighton Buzzard including a highly successful undercover policing operation targeting habitual criminals.
“Almost from day one of my campaign to become Police and Crime Commissioner, I was hearing from Leighton Buzzard residents who were increasingly concerned about the level of policing in the town,” said Mrs Holloway.
“I am delighted to have worked with Bedfordshire Police to secure a new crime deal for Leighton Buzzard, which includes the recruitment of an additional eight officers, on top of three cohorts being recruited this year which are specifically intended for Community Policing across the county, to help boost the town’s policing presence still further.”
The Commissioner has been involved in advanced negotiations with Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service to sign a collaboration deal which will allow for police in Leighton Buzzard to share the premises of the fire service on Lake Street.
She says the fire station is more central than the old building on Hockliffe Road, closer to the High Street and nightlife venues, and will allow for closer working with the fire service.
These new developments are planned to take place following the decision by Central Bedfordshire Council to purchase Leighton Buzzard Police Station, whose future has been the subject of speculation for more than a decade, with the Police and Crime Panel reporting in 2013 that only 20% of the building was being used by police.
“I have always said that, where police stations have been sold in a location where the fire station remains, the ideal solution is for us to share facilities with both services reaping benefits from savings.
“As a result we are at an advanced stage of negotiations with Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service to move our officers to Leighton Buzzard Fire Station. This move is subject to agreement by the Fire Authority at its meeting at the end of July,” said Commissioner Holloway.
Central Beds Council’s Executive Member for Corporate Resources, Cllr Richard Wenham said: “Central Bedfordshire is in the process of purchasing the police station site in Leighton Buzzard.
“As a council we have commitments both to the future regeneration of the town and to provide a wide range of services within it, so this strategically positioned site will have real advantages.
“In the short term, we are also very happy to support the Police and Crime Commissioner’s ambition to maintain a police presence in the town from the station, in advance of her plans to create a new joint service point with the Fire Service.”
The council has agreed to let police continue to use the station until the move to the fire station can go ahead, following agreement by the Fire Authority and minor building work.
There are also plans to re-open an enquiry office in the town, based in the Ambulance Station on Bassett Road. Members of the public will be asked if they are willing to volunteer their time, assisting in the newly re-opened enquiry office.
> The LBO’s Stewart Carr was at the meeting. See Tuesday’s LBO and this website tomorrow for more on the meeting.
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> If residents couldn’t attend the meeting but would like to pose a question to the local policing team, they can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.