Residents made their feelings known about the uncertainty surrounding the future of police presence in one of County Durham's largest town's at a lively public meeting.

The mood of the meeting, held at the Great Aycliffe Town Council offices last night (Wednesday, July 26), was one of frustration as emboldened residents made their voices heard.

Plans that could see Newton Aycliffe without a local police response while the force scrambles to find a new location have come under fire from concerned townsfolk.

Newton Aycliffe Police presently shares a space that houses a report desk, interview room and a neighbourhood team with the local fire service on the town's Central Avenue after the dedicated police station was demolished and the land was sold back in 2013.

Read more: Former Mayor shares worry for loss of Newton Aycliffe police

The Northern Echo: Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen, Deputy Chief Constable Ciaron Irvine, Chief Finance

Now, the ten-year lease on the small space the force has will come to an end in December 2023.

From that point on, the police in Newton Aycliffe could have no dedicated home, with bosses now frantically looking for a suitable “commercial” building in the town that would be suitable to house the force.

At the meeting, councillors and the public were given the opportunity to ask questions of Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Joy Allen, Deputy Chief Constable Ciaron Irvine, Chief Finance Officer Gary Ridley and Steve Helps, Chief Fire Officer of County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service.

For PCC Allen, the housing of officers at the fire station was “not the ideal situation but a compromise” as she assured anxious attendees that the meeting that the force was working hard to find a new home for Newton Aycliffe Police.

She said: “We want premises in the centre of Newton Aycliffe, not outside, and that is easier said than done. We have been looking significantly around the area, but none have been identified as being suitable to house the police.

“It was a compromise, but it kept our neighbourhood teams at Central Avenue for as long as we possibly could with Steve’s support until we find an alternative piece of land or accommodation.”

Despite this recognition, some councillors were irritated that the building was not immediately re-built in 2013, after the land where the station was previously had been sold off to build St Clare’s Court Care Home and Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Northern Echo: Residents and councillors gathered at Great Aycliffe Town Council.Residents and councillors gathered at Great Aycliffe Town Council. (Image: KAYLEIGH FRASER)

Deputy Chief Constable Irvine shared some of the concerns regarding police response times, brought to the fore by residents. There were claims that Aycliffe is a “war zone”, that is suffering from rising anti-social behaviour and they need to retain a force that can pick up calls for help quickly.

He added: “It is our clear objective to not remove response policing at all. We have five or six months to be able to continue to respond to incidents, but we are really committed to having a team here in Aycliffe.”

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Residents were also full of ideas for a possible relocation – with several buildings suggested to become a temporary home for the force including Newton Aycliffe Magistrates Court and several empty shops located in the centre of the town.

However, the panel dismissed most of these ideas, emphasising the large number of resources needed to house the police including specific guidelines on security and internet that are required by the Home Office.

By the end after nearly three hours, the message from residents was as clear as ever - “we want a police station” - as they sat in front of a home-made banner reading: “Don’t nick our nick”.