The announcement by Sussex Police that 18 stations are set to close has come as a shock to communities in Wealden and on the Sussex coast.
The decision was signed off by the County’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Katy Bourne on Monday. But it takes a thorough search of the Force’s website to discover full details about the strategy.
It’s planned to replace stand-alone stations with front desks or offices inside public or commercial buildings such as town or village halls, stores, supermarkets or libraries.
An example is the police presence at Hove Town Hall to replace the former Hove Police Station in Holland Road which shut this February.
But town and parish councillors and local people were in a state of shock after hearing the news via local radio or television. Several councils told the Express this was the first they had heard of the plan.
In Uckfield, town mayor Cllr Ian Smith said: “We were unaware of this decision and we have not been informed or present at any discussion.
“A while ago we heard some vague enquiry about possibly using the Civic Centre as a local police HQ but we have heard nothing more.
“I suppose they have to run their business like anyone else but my first reaction is to be quite concerned if we were to lose something as important as this from the town. How are they going to provide similar services in the future?”
Cllr Smith said after hearing the news he had been in touch with Town Clerk Ashley Serpis, who had also not been informed of the closure.
Meanwhile Cllr Alan Whittaker said: “I think this is a saving too far. People feel comfortable having a local police station. I suppose it is rather the way you feel seeing policemen on the beat. It might seem more efficient having them running around in cars but people want them on the street where they can stop and talk. You can’t stop a fast car.” In Heathfield, parish councillor Tim Hough expressed his sadness.
He said: “I know our County Cllr Rupert Simmons worked incredibly hard to get the local station opened. Being realistic it is not surprising but I am slightly concerned. “People get a sense of comfort knowing there is a police station they can actually go to in the town. It think this is bad, particularly when people have a problem and then find they have to go further afield.”
Parish council chair Cllr Pat Clark said: “The station currently monitors our four CCTV cameras which have cut crime. Where will this job now be done?” hief Constable Martin Richards does not rule out creating stations in supermarkets and cinemas. He said: “Increasingly people want to report crime and access other services online, which they can now do on our website, but we know this won’t work for everyone. Many people are attached to our traditional police stations, but they’re often not convenient for people to get to.” Katy Bourne would prefer to partner libraries and local authorities. She also suggests sharing stations with neighbouring forces including Hampshire, Kent and Surrey. She added: “Crime doesn’t consider borders.”