A CASH-strapped constabulary which is demanding taxpayers pay more for their policing is forking out up to £400,000 to shift a defunct 1960s radio mast.

Durham Police originally wanted to knock down the 150ft-high needle-like structure when it moves from its crumbling 1960s-built headquarters to a new £15m purpose-built base later this year.

But English Heritage, the City of Durham Trust and others cried foul, calling for the grade II-listed mast, designed by Brutalist engineer Sir Ove Arup – the creator of the Syndey Opera House – to be saved.

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As a result, the police agreed to move it a few yards down the road and make it part of its new HQ.

It has now emerged that will cost up to £400,000.

But police chiefs say it still makes sense, because leaving it where it is would knock £1m off the value of the current headquarters site, which is to be sold for upmarket housing.

Durham Police assistant chief officer Gary Ridley said: “We can’t demolish the structure so we’re going to have to spend somewhere in the region of £300,000 to £400,000 to get it moved outside of the new police headquarters.

“But by moving the structure it increases the capital value of the land, which means more money for policing in Durham and Darlington.”

The bill comes as the force faces stringent Government funding cuts and is imposing a two per cent precept rise.

But Douglas Pocock, honorary secretary of the City of Durham Trust, said: “It (the mast) is a slender needle rising from a tripod.

“It’s a fine sculptural form, so much so that English Heritage listed it and there are very, very few modern buildings that are listed.”

The new police headquarters is due to open in August.

The long-running project was also held up by the suspected presence of great crested newts, which delayed work by four months and cost the taxpayer more than £100,000 even though none of the protected amphibians was eventually found on site.

Sir Ove Arup also designed Durham’s Kingsgate Bridge, where a bust of the late engineer was unveiled in 2011.