Demand for clarity over future Cambridge city centre police station
Will it be a new police station – or just a desk?
That was one of the key questions for those attending the first public meeting on Cambridgeshire Constabulary's proposal to close Parkside police station and build a new station adjacent to Milton Park & Ride.
Held on Monday night (June 10) at Milton Primary School, the meeting was attended by residents and councillors, who heard from Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Jason Ablewhite and Chief Constable Nick Dean.
The commissioner committed to retaining a physical police building in the city centre.
But concerns were raised as he switched between using the terminology "desk" and "station" to describe what that will be.
A number of Cambridge city councillors pressed him, arguing a consultation on the new building ought to contain detail on what will replace Parkside in the city.
But the chief constable said the change in operation demand meant he could not predict what the most appropriate facility would be in two or three years.
"Policing will not be leaving Cambridge," he stressed.
Members of the public suggested the plans for Milton were so detailed that the decision appeared to have been made.
The commissioner said the level of detail was due to the "operational need".
Earlier, he had revealed: "We need bricks in the ground by February next year."
The chief constable addressed concerns raised by Milton residents that people would be released after arrest into their community, potentially far from where they live.
He said he and his officers have a "duty of care" when an arrest is made, and they do not receive complaints from residents surrounding Parkside.
Councillors also complained they were not properly consulted. The commissioner said he had mentioned the plans to the Labour leader of the city council, Lewis Herbert, previously.
But Cllr Herbert said there had been no consultation.
Afterwards, Cllr Herbert said: "The most worrying revelation from tonight's meeting was that the police commissioner hasn't got a clue about the shape of their future central city police 'contact point', now at last being called a police station, that his plan proposes will replace Parkside as their vital city centre base.
"It is deeply worrying for everyone in Cambridge that the police commissioner cannot answer that most basic of questions, despite being asked that at least four times at tonight's meeting. It won't be a proper consultation until detailed plans for a city centre police station are published."
The commissioner said afterwards: "Local community policing will remain at the heart [of Cambridge] in a police station, to be identified, whether that's on the existing site, whether it's next door with fire, whether it's at the Guildhall, but actually community policing will still stay."
He added: "The survey I launched seeks people's views as to whether they think building a new, operational police station on the outskirts of the city, in Milton, is a good idea. Once this initial consultation on our Milton proposal ends on July 5, I will be holding a second consultation with the public on what the remaining Cambridge city centre police station will look like.
"I want to again reassure people that there will definitely be a police station in the centre of Cambridge city, whatever the outcome of the current survey regarding a possible new station in Milton."
Cllr Tim Bick, the city council Lib Dem leader, said: "Until last night, the police hadn't gone further than talking about leaving a public information point in Cambridge city centre. At their meeting, it seems they are now proposing a new police station. This is welcome news and we must hold them to it.
"In a very busy city centre there must be a place where people can go and find the police."
More by this authorBen Hatton, Local Democracy Reporter