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Hope for police campaign but blow for bid to save Belsize Fire Station

Camden Labour party and residents protest against cuts to policing Camden Labour party and residents protest against cuts to policing

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
10:54 AM

City Hall has welcomed plans to keep a police base in century-old Hampstead Police Station, which is set to close to the public.

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Firefighters protest against cuts to the serviceFirefighters protest against cuts to the service

The Heath and Hampstead Society is piecing together a package of conditions for any developer wanting to buy the £30million Victorian police station in Rosslyn Hill, including space for a small police centre in the 100-year-old building.

The society is in talks with English Heritage and Camden Council to determine the building restrictions that would be imposed should the building be sold.

The talks follow City Hall’s announcement last week that front counters at Hampstead, West Hampstead and Albany Street police stations are set to close, as part of London-wide plans to save £500million from the Metropolitan Police’s budget.

At a meeting on the future of policing in the borough on Tuesday (January 22), City Hall deputy mayor for policing and crime (MOPAC) Stephen Greenhalgh said: “It’s quite clear we are going to have a look at some creative solutions when it comes to Hampstead.

“Less police access in Hampstead is clearly somewhere we don’t want to be.”

He added “This is a consultation and that’s a sensible proposal and I encourage you to put that forward.”

Mr Greenhalgh also backtracked on previous proposals for people to report crime to “pop-up” police counters in coffee shops and supermarkets. He said the temporary counters would be mostly used for offering crime prevention advice.

Tony Hillier, chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society, said any developer would have their hands tied by conditions Hampstead police station, as a result of its Grade II-listed status.

“If you follow that reasoning then it would be difficult for MOPAC to avoid the conclusions we have reached,” he said.

“It was very reassuring to hear that they are receptive to the thinking we are putting forward. Now we have to work on the details.”

Hampstead Town Councillor Simon Marcus, who is working on a similar proposal, said: “This is a solution that meets everyone’s needs. I want to keep a police presence in the area and as far as I can see MOPAC is open to suggestions.”

But a campaign to save Belsize Fire Station from closure suffered a major blow this week after the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said he would overrule the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) and close 12 stations across the capital.

The LFEPA, which runs the London Fire Brigade and makes decisions on key matters including strategy and policy, blocked the plans on Monday (January 21).

Mr Johnson will take the unprecedented step of using a mayoral directive to drive through the cuts, despite protest from firefighters and the general public.

He said: “The LFEPA has a responsibility to deliver a balanced budget based on sensible plans for fire safety provision in the capital.

“I am of course always willing to listen to submissions but it’s quite clear today’s decision offers nothing positive.”

Paul Embery, London regional secretary for the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said: “The mayor’s unprecedented move raises all sorts of questions about democracy and accountability.

“He should listen to his fire authority, he should listen to the workforce, and he should listen to Londoners, the vast majority of whom oppose these cuts.”

During the meeting, incensed members of the firefighters’ union gathered outside the London Fire Brigade Headquarters in Union Street to protest the “disgraceful” cuts to the service - threatening strikes if the plans went ahead.

Many claimed frontline services could be protected if the mayor reversed his plans to cut council tax instead of axing frontline fire services.

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