Estate agents always interested in station’

TEMPERS have flared over the possibility of Hampstead losing its police station, with protesters vowing to take to the streets in opposition

Ed Thomas

TEMPERS have flared over the possibility of Hampstead losing its police station, with protesters vowing to take to the streets in opposition.

Anger at plans to close the historic Haverstock Hill base was fuelled when more than 60 people attended a Ham&High-sponsored debate on the issue in Hampstead Town Hall on Monday night.

Members of the public clashed with police chiefs over their controversial desire to review the future of the stationc which has been branded "not conducive to modern policing requirements."

Sale of the building could net £20million for the Met, which would feed into its coffers to help police the whole of London. Replacement plans include creating a centralised custody suite, a single patrol base for the response teams and a series of 'front counters' for people to report crime to Safer Neighbourhood Teams during limited opening hours.

Pam Gilby, chairwoman of the South End Green Association, said the plan would leave people "falling between the two stools of the Safer Neighbourhoods and 999 response teams" and pleaded for a continued police presence in Hampstead.

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Many local people such as Linda Chung, chairwoman of the NW3 Hampstead business association, asked why the station could not be renovated and brought up to scratch to continue as a major police base.

She said the adjoining annexe house could also be used, perhaps in conjunction with Camden Council and other agencies.

But Richard Sumray from the Metropolitan Police Authority replied: "There's no point us paying more for things we need to do. We need to be cost efficient."

Alan Croney, the Met's director of property services, admitted money was the key factor in bringing Hampstead up to modern standards and ongoing running costs could prove too much.

"Our mailbag is always full of correspondence from estate agents interested in Hampstead police station," he said. "Opportunities do come along all the time. But what we need is a new front counter service for Hampstead."

Jessica Learmond-Criqui from Frognal and Fitzjohns Safer Neighbourhoods panel, accused police of "selling off the family jewels." She said: "Hampstead police station is an unique building. By selling it off, you are withdrawing the possibility of ever bringing police back into the community in the future.

"In this area are people who are paying some of the highest taxes in the country. So we are paying for [police] services, whether we get them or not."

But police rejected the argument, saying wealthy people are not entitled to more policing just because they pay more taxes.

Camden's new police commander, Chief Superintendent Dominic Clout, admitted he had concerns about a single patrol base for the whole borough because congested roads might slow down 999 response times.

He added: "The response teams' level of local knowledge just won't be as good as the Safer Neighbourhoods Teams.

"But they put their lives on the line. They are the ones who evacuated the Camden fire, not the Safer Neighbourhoods Teams.

"I will squeal if they are looking at taking more police officers from me through this. I am here to do my job and do my best, and I know you want to help."

Plans are also afoot to review the future of Kentish Town and Golders Green police stations and protesters have until March 3 to comment on the Met's plans.

A public protest has also been organised this Saturday outside Hampstead police station at 12 pm.