CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a new multi-million pound headquarters and custody suite for North Yorkshire Police have been scrapped only months after being launched by the county’s crime commissioner.
Julia Mulligan unveiled the proposals for a “Northern Base” in the village of South Kilvington, near Thirsk, last year after earlier making an election pledge to close the current HQ, the Grade II-listed Newby Wiske Hall.
The scheme attracted “considerable public opposition” from residents, with councillors saying the development belonged “in an urban city like Seattle” rather than a village with a population of just 220.
Mrs Mulligan has now decided not to go ahead with the development near the A1, which would have included a new ten-cell custody suite, and will instead share facilities with neighbouring Cleveland Police.
She said basing some of the force’s staff at Cleveland’s planned Community Safety Hub at Hemlington, on the border with North Yorkshire, would save £10m.
So far £620,000 has been spent on preparatory work for South Kilvington and establishing whether the site was viable, though officials say some of this work can be put towards the new plans.
Officials say the plans were still at a preparatory stage when the decision was taken. A spokesman said: “No land had been purchased and no planning permission had been sought by North Yorkshire Police.”
The estimated cost of the abandoned development was not revealed, but was expected to be in excess of the £18m spent by North Yorkshire Police on the new police station in Harrogate.
North Yorkshire Police will still move out of Newby Wiske Hall, near Northallerton, described as “not fit for purpose”, and new plans will be drawn up which may involve staff working flexibly at different sites.
But the change of heart means Northallerton police station, which would have been closed if the new HQ had been built, will remain open and its custody suite will be refurbished.
Mrs Mulligan’s office said a joint piece of work with the College of Policing to model demand revealed that there is no need for extra custody cells to hold suspects after arrest.
She said: “I am committed to making sure that North Yorkshire Police has the facilities it needs to serve our communities now and in the future, and that commitment has not changed.
“However, I also want to ensure that the North Yorkshire taxpayer gets the very best value for money and with new options now available, I am no longer convinced that a new-build facility is able to offer that.
“Closing the Northern Base project was a tough decision to make, because a lot of effort has gone into the preparatory work, but it is the right thing to do.
“The new information we have about custody demand, and the possibilities offered through a partnership opportunity with Cleveland, give us scope to explore different accommodation solutions.”
She said if that can save up to £10m, “then we must take that opportunity”.
Chief constable Dave Jones said: “I understand and support the commissioner’s decision to draw a close to the Northern Base project, to pursue other options.”
Carl Les, chairman of the North Yorkshire police and crime panel, which scrutinises the work of the police commissioner, said there would be “some relief that Northallerton police station will be refurbished and not closed”.