Police and crime commissioner justifies closure of Parkside station and switch to Milton
Cambridgeshire police and crime commissioner Jason Ablewhite has justifed the force's plans to close Parkside station in Cambridge and open a new one in Milton.
The plan has come under scrutiny and prompted Labour councillors to launch a petition calling for a city centre station to be retained.
Parkside sits on a site that is ripe for redevelopment and the force has said a new modern police station is needed to serve the area’s growing population.
Mr Ablewhite pledged that a site would be retained in the city.
He said: “For those of you, like myself, who have lived and worked in Cambridge for decades, we have been discussing the need for a new police station for years.
“While Parkside police station has provided a good service since its construction in 1967, it is no longer big enough to serve our growing population.
“What’s changed fundamentally is that over the past five years, we’re getting nearer to the point where the existing custody provision just isn’t going to be up to scratch in the future.”
The new site, on church land near the Park & Ride and A10, would more than double the custody space available – and an offer on the land has been made.
Currently, officers have to travel to Peterborough to book suspects into custody when the cells are full at Parkside, which is happening multiple times a week. If the cells in Peterborough are full, there have been occasions when suspects have been transported to Norfolk. The cells are also in need of modernisation.
Mr Ablewhite, a Conservative politician, told the Cambridge Independent: “The number of custody cells need increasing so that officers don’t spend hours transferring detainees to Peterborough, when the cells in Parkside become full.
“There’s only 10 cells, which don’t even have handwashing facilities in. There are rights for these individuals and there are inherent risks with it, for example, if you have someone that’s violent that then asks to come out of the cell to wash their hands, there’s a risk to the officers as well.
“We have planned and looked at numerous sites either in Cambridge or around the periphery but our land requirement for the new site is eight acres and the existing site is only 1.2 acres. The argument about redeveloping where we already are falls away completely because you can’t stack cells. They have to be on one floor and up to modern standards, so we just haven’t got the space at Parkside.”
He said police analysis of developments and the pattern of crime suggested the site in Milton could be “operational for 40 to 50 years”, serving the southern part of the county.
“It’s of course timely that Waterbeach has planning permission for the first 6,000 houses, Northstowe is now under way with 10,000 houses and when the A10 is dualled there will be growth on that side of the city,” he pointed out.
“The new station will be more conducive to modern-day policing. This will be open plan to aid working together. It’s also conducive to having other partners in there as well as we move towards a more community-based model in partnership with the county or district councils.”
Initially, the force said a ‘police information point’ and community teams would be retained in the city at a location to be confirmed. Labour warned this could simply amount to officers hotdesking from a shared office.
Cllr Nicky Massey, Labour's executive city councillor for transport and community safety, responded: “We don’t want an information point. We don’t want a desk in a shared office. We want to keep Cambridge safe. Our city centre needs a police station.”
Labour councillors unanimously agreed at a recent meeting that it was essential to retain a Cambridge police station.
But since the announcement last week, the commissioner has spoken of a police station in the centre of the city, although he confirmed it would not be open 24 hours a day.
Mr Ablewhite said: “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.”
“It’s not just going to be a desk. You’ll still have officers in modern-day policing, who will be patrolling and will be starting their shifts more easily because the new site will be more accessible for staff and that’s been mapped as well.
“But obviously when people are tasked to go patrolling or respond to emergencies, the profile is showing that they will get there quicker because the vast majority of calls are to the north of the city and we expect that to remain so.”
He acknowledged how important it was to ensure that there was a location where tourists could report crime.
Chief Constable Nick Dean said: “People living in Cambridge city and the surrounding villages need a modern police station, capable of responding to both the growing population and the changing nature of crime. It is important that we explore options for a new station before consulting on what elements of policing remain in the city.”
A petition launched by Cambridge Labour can be found here.