Growing effort to save hundreds of jobs at police training centre

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EFFORTS are being intensified to prevent scores of job losses at a specialist police training centre in Yorkshire which is set to close down next year.

More than 175 jobs were thrown into jeopardy after it was announced in September that the National Police Training College in Harrogate, one of just a handful in the country, was to be shut as part of a massive cost-cutting exercise.

The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) revealed that the base would be closed as it battles to slash its property costs by 50 per cent.

But now the NPIA is planning to stave off redundancies by moving its training activities to other NPIA sites, as well as find alternative office accommodation in the area.

The local member for Harrogate Borough Council, Jim Clark, who also sits on North Yorkshire County Council, has been one of the main campaigners to ensure the college remained in the spa town. The councillor joined forces with other council members to petition the Home Office in an attempt to get the decision reversed.

However, Coun Clark said that he had now accepted the centre will close and welcomed the decision to limit the number of redundancies.

He now plans to push the 23-acre site forward as land for affordable housing as part of the council’s Local Development Framework (LDF), after it was revealed the NPIA had applied for a change of use.

More than 2,000 homes are planned for Harrogate alone, with the west of the town, where the training college is based, pinpointed as one of the key areas for development.

The move would ensure protected land that has been earmarked for development remains untouched – securing the future of the town’s green spaces.

Coun Clark said: “While we are very sorry to see them go, but we are grateful that the jobs are going to be saved. The question mark is now over what we do with the site and its important that residents are consulted on that.

“I think up to 150 houses could be built on the brownfield part of the site which would help us to stop having to eat up the Special Landscape Areas as at present a lot of the proposed housing has been planned for these areas. There’s a consultation on the LDF next year and we want this site to be taken into the consultation.

“I have now accepted that the centre is closing and we must now move on and look to the future of the site and hope it can be used for housing. It is up to us to ensure the site is used properly.”

The news is set to come as a blow to the Tory MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, Andrew Jones, who has expressed concerns over future development of the land amid fears that the spa town could be blighted by an urban sprawl.

There are 176 staff employed at the Harrogate site, which is devoted to teaching police personnel to become trainers.

The Yorkshire Post revealed in February that the training college, which is a major employer in Harrogate and works with more than 1,200 officers every year, was faced with an uncertain future amid cost-cutting.

The NPIA, which itself is due to be phased out next year as part of the Government’s cuts, has been ordered to slash spending on its 11 sites from more than £20m to about £10m. It has maintained that the closure of the Harrogate site, which is located in a large Victorian house on Yew Tree Lane, was driven by a need to cut property costs rather than wage bills, and has pledged to try to minimise redundancies.

The NPIA has already reduced the number of employees from 2,174 in May last year to 1,636 on July 31 this year – a reduction of 25 per cent. The Home Office has confirmed a new streamlined agency which will act as the NPIA’s successor.

Formerly Pannal Ash College, the premises were purchased by West Riding County Council in 1945 for use as a training college for police recruits.