Fight must continue to save our iconic police station
Hold the cheers and congratulations regarding the fight for Hampstead police station – it s not over yet. There have been murmurings for years about the closure of Hampstead police station, but the rumours got serious when the last borough commander, Mar
Hold the cheers and congratulations regarding the fight for Hampstead police station - it's not over yet.
There have been murmurings for years about the closure of Hampstead police station, but the rumours got serious when the last borough commander, Mark Heath, announced in October 2005 that there were definite plans for closing local police stations to make way for a centralised HQ.
Hampstead police station is a very ripe plum. On a large site, complete with parking, in a most desirable area, and worth millions, it is glibly declared "not fit for purpose". The fact that it served as a convenient base for several police operations and was seen as a prominent focal point for local policing was of no matter.
It also seemed odd that the bosses painted a picture of Dickensian conditions for staff when there were certainly no complaints from them. Admittedly the building internally isn't exactly plush or high-tech but that's what happens when it's neglected.
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The community regards Hampstead police station as its public asset - we want the services and the building to be retained, and not to be lost forever in short-sighted plans or a bid for cash.
There were immediate campaigns, backed by the Ham&High, to 'Save Hampstead Police Station'. "Where's the justification?" we roared. "Are you going to ask for our views?"
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"Yes" the MPA said. We gathered the petitions and delivered them to the MPA. Two years later, in November last year, the asset management plan on the future of police stations was finally published and launched for consultation. Hampstead Police Station was definitely under threat.
A fresh fever of campaigning and more petitions were signed. There were numerous public meetings, one at a Camden Council scrutiny committee and another in Hampstead Town Hall.
Each time the MPA made its unconvincing case, each time the public voiced its strong and reasoned views as to why the station should not be closed.
The consultation ended on March 13. Told at short notice that the results were being released, I dashed to the public MPA meeting on July 4, hoping for good news. Instead I heard it being admitted that the consultation was deeply flawed, with on average less than 10 responses per borough.
Camden was highlighted as being very unusual, with 783 responses, making 55.2 per cent of the total.
What are they going to do now? The bland press release said: "The MPA and the Met consulted with local communities about the future of the police estate but there were limitations to the process which we all recognise.
"The results we did get have illustrated that our communities need more information, about how the services provided in their name operate, in order to understand how they need to develop and change to improve. But it also highlighted considerable opposition in some areas to the removal of local police facilities, specifically iconic police stations".
Everything is to be put on hold while a further review is to be carried out. To my mind that means they didn't like the results of the first consultation and will be doing another one. The MPA thinks that they didn't get their message across that policing must move with the times, and that no building would close until there is something else in place.
Forgive me but I think the people of Hampstead do know and understand that. But does the MPA understand that it's not necessary to sell off perfectly good family silver which can be adapted to modern use, and that we expect top class services to be delivered in any case? We're not convinced that good local responsive services should be located elsewhere in some remote location unrelated to the community.
The MPA seems determined to get its way, hence there is only a pause while they review. There is no commitment yet not to close Hampstead police station. Consultation can be tweaked all ways to get the answers you want - if you don't like it, ignore it, scrap it, or start all over again.
The clear and imminent threat is not over. I would like to think the MPA is not trying to wear us down but people of Hampstead, be ready to fight on.