Great Dunmow police station set to close after new plans announced

Great Dunmow Police Stn

Great Dunmow Police Stn - Credit: Archant

Great Dunmow’s police station is to close, just seven years after £7.5million was spent on the purpose-built facility, Essex Police announced on Tuesday (October 6).

Dunmow is one of 15 of the county’s police stations earmarked for closure in what the force described as “unprecedented savings” they are having to make. It is likely to be replaced another new, purpose-built centre in Chelmsford.

The Dunmow station’s front counter, currently open from noon to 6pm Monday to Saturday, will close from April under new proposals. Dunmow is not one of the five operational bases proposed to remain in the county, despite currently housing a business centre and support staff.

Saffron Walden will be the only police station in Uttlesford open to the public from April 2016 as Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh announced his plans to tackle £63m worth of cuts to the force by 2020.

Mr Kavanagh said: “People will worry about buildings but they don’t keep people safe, our officers do. We are getting rid of buildings which have more rodents than officers inside.”

He added: “Community policing will look very different. We are moving from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘need to have’ service.

“We must still respond to the most vulnerable.”

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The wide ranging plans include reducing the number of front counters at stations across Essex from 25 to 10 by April, which means cutting front desk jobs in the county from 98 to 36.

The new locations have been determined through geography and footfall, and research carried out over two separate months showed that 551 people visited Saffron Walden’s front counter while only 376 visited Great Dunmow, with a large proportion of that number making deliveries to the business centre.

A new police headquarters in Chelmsford is also to be built, and the current 20-acre site in Springfield, which costs 2.5m annually to run, is to be sold for housing.

Uttlesford District Commander Chief Inspector Richard Melton said: “Local policing remains at the very heart of what Essex Police does. However, in the face of having to make unprecedented savings, we must change in order to meet those challenges.

“People are, understandably, attached to their police stations and view them as an integral part of their community. But the stark reality is although people are sentimental about their police stations, many are seriously under-used by the public while being expensive to maintain and no longer fit for a modern day police force.

“I appreciate that these are tough messages for residents to hear, but Essex Police must take tough decisions to secure the future of the force.

I can reassure residents of the whole Uttlesford district that their officers will continue to be visible in their community, serving victims, catching criminals and providing emergency support.”

Dunmow police station opened in 2008, and was described as “15 years in the making”, boasting state of the art facilities and an aim to provide a greater police presence and visibility throughout the town.

Essex Police Crime Commissioner Nick Alston said the future of the business centre at Dunmow was currently undecided.

He said: “A final decision has not been taken about the business unit building in Dunmow yet.

“To my mind if we are going to build a new, cost-effective headquarters on one site in Chelmsford it would make sense to have everything together, but we will look at the business case.

“There are still a lot of options around the new HQ as to what we put there. This is about the building, not staff, and jobs at the Dunmow business unit are unaffected.”

The force have also proposed to slash the number of PCSO posts in Essex from 250 to 60, with 20 of the 27 PCSO roles in Uttlesford and Braintree expected to go.

Union bodies described the announcement as a “sad day for Essex Police”, and warned that more cuts could be yet to come.

John Watts, secretary of the Essex Police Unison branch, which represents PCSOs and police staff, said: “It is a very sad day for Essex Police.

“PCSOs at the moment are the frontline as far as the public are concerned.

“We are realistic. We know in times of austerity public sector jobs are at risk and we knew there would be a reduction in PSCOs. But if all the savings didn’t have to be made by April this could have been done by natural wastage.

“Essex Police will still be recruiting officers, and PCSOs are trained up to a certain level. We will lose those skills as they are forced to look for other jobs.”

The stations at Hatfield Heath and Stansted Mountfitchet, which have been closed to the public for some time, have also been proposed for sale.