PLANS to create a large new base for North Yorkshire Police have been scrapped nearly a year after work began on the proposals.
The bid to find a replacement for the force’s current headquarters – the ancient Grade II listed Newby Wiske Hall – looked certain when it was announced a site for a new, modern Northern base had been found in South Kilvington, Thirsk.
But last night Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan made the unexpected announcement that she was calling a halt to the plans.
Instead, some operations and facilities will be relocated to Cleveland Police’s new headquarters just over the North Yorkshire border in Hemlington, Middlesbrough.
With plans to bolster existing custody facilities in the county, rather than creating a new custody suite, it is unlikely a new Northern base will need to be built in North Yorkshire.
The sale of Newby Wiske is likely to still go ahead, which has been described as unfit for purpose by Julia Mulligan and North Yorkshire Chief Constable Dave Jones.
Where existing staff at Newby Wiske will now be relocated to is uncertain, but Mrs Mulligan’s office said the new development opened the door to more “cost effective accommodation options.”
Work began in September last year on preparing plans for a new Northern Base for North Yorkshire Police in the village of South Kilvington, near Thirsk.
One of the most controversial elements of the plan was the proposal to incorporate a new ten-cell custody suite at the site, which is next to a primary school.
Villagers in South Kilvington launched a protest campaign. The village has very few public transport links to remove anybody released from custody and there were concerns it would dwarf the village.
But Julia Mulligan’s office said an in depth study by North Yorkshire Police and the College of Policing concluded there was no need for more police cells in the county.
Instead, custody facilities will be bolstered at Northallerton Police station, which would have closed if the new HQ had been built.
South Kilvington campaigner Joy Davies said: “It’s such a relief. I think the community will be so relived and pleased. I’ve no doubt one or two people were for it being built here – as that’s democracy – but the majority here were very much against it.”
Mrs Mulligan said she made the decision because she was no longer convinced a new-build facility would offer best-value for money.
“Closing the Northern Base project was a tough decision to make, because a lot of effort has gone into the preparatory work, but it is the right thing to do,” she said.
“The new information we have about custody demand, and the possibilities offered through a partnership opportunity with Cleveland, give us scope to explore different accommodation solutions.
“And if that can save us around up to £10m, and cushion North Yorkshire Police from some of the tough economic challenges ahead, then we must take that opportunity.
“I believe that working in partnership with Cleveland Police will have great potential to deliver real benefits to the people of North Yorkshire - including new ways of working to tackle cross-border crime, which is a real issue for many of our communities.”
Mrs Mulligan’s office had said the plans had reached the stage where money would have to be spent on site investigation. The plans were stopped before the land was purchased, or planning permission sought.
Her spokesman said: “This was a good point to stop and think about whether we still wanted it, before we spent any more money.”
Chief Constable Dave Jones said: “I understand and support the Commissioner’s decision to draw a close to the Northern Base project, to pursue other options.
“This is a difficult time financially for all public services, so if there is an opportunity for us to secure the right facilities - at a lower price tag - by doing things differently, then we must grasp it with both hands.”