Accrington’s new police station will be based in the town centre for at least five years and generate more than £100,000 in rent for the council, it’s been revealed.
The Observer reported last week how police bosses will move from Spring Gardens into two empty units on Broadway in a £500,000 scheme.
Council documents have revealed that Lancashire Police will sign a minimum five-year lease and provide an annual rental income to the council of £21,500.
This is a 35 per cent ‘discount’, however the constabulary will meet all the conversion and alteration costs.
It has also been revealed how police bosses had considered a ‘much cheaper option’ of sharing office space with social services, however the council did not think this was the ‘best option for the borough’.
Kevin Horkin, the Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Hyndburn, has attacked the deal, saying it will see a town centre unit converted into a “Pop Up Toy Town Cop Shop” and claiming it is “policing on the cheap”.
He said: “I have grave reservations that the current proposal to replace the current Police Station in Spring Gardens which serves the whole of Hyndburn can be done from a Town Centre retail unit with shop frontage highly visible to shoppers in the pedestrianised precinct on what is potentially the busiest retail thoroughfare in the town centre.
“We need to seriously ask ourselves what message this will send to the PLC Board of a National Retail Chain that we need to attract to re-occupy the site currently occupied by M&S when it moves out and relocates to Rawtenstall.
“By reloacting the Police Station to a wholly inappropriate location we are not only losing valuable retail space but the valuable footfall that accompanies this as well. It just creates the wrong impression of what Accrington Town Centre has to offer and is ultimately all about.”
However, Conservative group leader Coun Peter Britcliffe told a cabinet meeting last week it will create a ‘feeling of greater security in the town centre’.
He said: “It’s not good news, it’s great news for Accrington town centre and it’s a feather in your cap to all those who achieved this. It’s fantastic news and probably the best news the town centre has had this year and how much did it need that boost?”
Labour council leader Miles Parkinson told the meeting: “All parties want a police presence right in the heart of the town. I didn’t want it on the outskirts or even worse at Greenbank. A town the size of Accrington we needed a station right in the heart of the community.”
According to the council papers, the idea to move into units eight and 10 on Broadway were first mooted in January 2014 after a ‘contingent’ from the police ‘expressed a keen interest’.
The constabulary had originally asked for ‘nil rent’ as the social service share option was more cost effective, however a ‘compromise’ was met with the council to ‘meet the needs and expected outcomes of both organisations’. The lease shall remain at nil rent for an ‘agreed period’ while works are carried out.
The council will also benefit by saving more than £26,000 in 2015/16 for the empty business rates and similar annual amounts should both units remain empty.
Documents show how if the council had ‘insisted’ on full market rent the ‘constabulary may have walked away from negotiations’. Officers will move into their new base later this year.