New police station plan for Cheltenham's Promenade
POLICE are planning to open a new base in Cheltenham's Promenade when they move the main town headquarters out to Bishop's Cleeve.
Officers are due to vacate their outdated Lansdown Road station and move to a new building next to GE Aviation, off the A435, within the next three years.
The move has raised concerns among some residents over a lack of police presence in the town centre, as well as fears it will take officers longer to arrive at crime scenes.
But Martin Surl, Gloucestershire's Police and Crime Commissioner, said talks had already begun to find a solution to the problem.
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He wants to open a police hub at the Municipal Offices, in the Promenade, in order to give the force a firm foothold in the town centre.
"People want a strong police presence in the town centre and that is perfectly understandable," said Mr Surl. "I know that people want the police to be visible but we will make sure that is still the case.
"We have already started talking to the council about using a room in the Municipal Offices. It would be a place police could use as a base and where people could come to raise any issues."
It is thought the facility would be used as a 'shop-front' for police in the town where people could come to talk to officers face-to-face. It would also be fully equipped with IT.
Councillor John Rawson (LD, St Peter's) said the council had been very receptive to the idea.
"This is something which the council has been discussing with the police for quite a while and we are very positive about it," he said.
"In these difficult financial times for all public authorities it makes good sense to share accommodation where possible.
"It would help police to keep a strong presence in the town and it would also provide a good degree of reassurance to the public that they still here."
He added that talks over the potential move were ongoing.
At this stage it is not known whether the room would be manned for 24 hours a day.
The news comes just weeks after Mr Surl revealed plans for a new £3 million Cheltenham police headquarters between Bishop's Cleeve and Southam. The news marked the end of years of speculation over the force's future in the town.
But Councillor Barbara Driver is not convinced that it's financially viable.
She said: "It is vital for everybody that the police open a base in the town centre... but it is important that they fund it.
"It will give, first of all, reassurance for everybody in Cheltenham that they have a police base they can call upon. But I am not sure about it because of the cost.
"Somewhere like Ambrose Street may be better. I believe there needs to be a big discussion about this." As long ago as 2004 the 1960s Lansdown Road station was deemed unfit for purpose and police chiefs have wrestled with the question of whether to redevelop it or move to an alternative site.
When plans for a new £12.4million cell block in Waterwells, Gloucester, were given the go-ahead in June, the decision was taken to build a new station near Bishop's Cleeve.
It will only be an administration centre however, with no holding cells.
Don Kempster, chairman for the Cheltenham District Neighbourhood Watch associations is convinced it will put vulnerable residents' minds at rest. He added: "Anything that brings the police closer to our town centre has to be an advantage.
"Although the police need more resources, everybody we talk to would like more police based in the town and on the streets."
Meanwhile it is thought the old Lansdown station will be sold off.