Axe To Fall On North's Police Stations

A large number of police stations north of the border are to shut down and be sold off.

It took a majority vote and prolonged debate, but this afternoon members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board gave the green light to the contentious disposal of 26 police stations across Northern Ireland.

Senior PSNI officers attended the meeting to take questions on the proposals and the 'strategic vision' for the police estate.

"I think the public understands that the money that we have needs to be invested into delivering an effective service", Assistant Chief Constable David Jones said.

However, unionist members opposed 20 of the closures, but were outvoted on each occasion by nationalist and independent members.

The discussions were heated with the proposals already having angered unionist board members, who have questioned the timing of the move given the upsurge in dissident republican violence.

But nationalist and republicans backed the plan, arguing that selling of stations will not impact on front line policing.

There are currently 108 police stations across Northern Ireland, a figure which the police say is too high.

Sixty-three per cent only open on a part-time basis while at least 20 are regarded as effectively closed because they have not been used operationally for several years.

The closure proposals come on foot of a major review of the police estate that was launched four years ago.

Speaking after today's meeting, Policing Board Chairman Barry Gilligan said: "Members had a robust discussion with the police on the current and future needs for the police estate.

"It is fair to say that the issue of primary concern in all of this was one of service delivery and ensuring that the public have access to the best possible policing service," he said, noting that the PSNI were left in "no doubt about the strength of feeling in respect of service delivery and building confidence in communities where there are particular concerns".

He said the stations that have been agreed for disposal are not needed operationally: "In the majority of cases before the Board today, the stations have been closed for some period of time," Mr Gilligan continued.

"The ongoing cost of maintenance and upkeep of stations not operationally required is simply not justifiable in the current economic climate and in light of funding pressures facing policing.

"The Board has to ensure value for money and ensure that resources available for policing are used to best effect," he said.

Mr Gilligan also said that the Board has asked the PSNI to provide a report for the September meeting on how the monies raised from these disposals will be reinvested into policing and in improving policing services in local areas.

See: Police Station Closure 'List' Revealed


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