Thursday, March 20, 2008

Response to Lewisham Police Consultation

Below, for information, is the response I've submitted on behalf of the Brockley and Ladywell ward councillors in response to the Lewisham Police Asset Management consultation I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, which includes proposals to close Brockley Police Station.

Theme 1: Safer Neighbourhoods bases
A Do you have any comments and views about the provision of Safer Neighbourhoods bases?
We broadly support the proposals to have Safer Neighbourhood Bases.

B If you have any specific suggestions of premises or sites suitable for a Safer Neighbourhoods base in the borough please let us know.

There are a number of empty shops on Brockley Road at the moment, by the junction with Adelaide Avenue, some of them currently to let. One of these could make a good site for a Safer Neighbourhood Base for Ladywell and Crofton teams, as it is near the ward boundary between the two, and on the main thoroughfare.

Theme 2: Public counters
C Do you agree with the splitting of front counter facilities to provide dedicated space for reception, enforcement and victim-focused functions?


Theme 3: Office buildings
D Do you agree with the grouping of command, management and support functions into a single office building in the borough?

We do not oppose the grouping of command, management and support functions into a single office building in the borough, but we have consistently opposed the closing of local police stations in the borough and think it is important to have somewhere local that residents go to raise concerns and report crimes.

Theme 4: Summary
E Do you have any comments about the future of Brockley police station, bearing in mind the re provision of services elsewhere?

We would cautiously support the plan to move the Crofton Park and Ladywell Safer Neighbourhood Team bases and the front counter facility to somewhere more prominent in the ward, such as a shop premises along Brockley Road. A prominently-located and staffed shop where people could stop by and report crimes/raise concerns would potentially be an improvement. It could also provide the opportunity to promote Neighbourhood Watch and other schemes. We recognise that the current police station, which is situated away from the main thoroughfare on a quiet residential street, is less than ideal for current requirements.

However, we understand that the existing police station is regularly used for a number of special operations, including Operation Trident, murder enquiries etc and we would be concerned if the closure of Brockley police station led to a shortage of space for these teams. We understand that the police station is already used as an overflow site because Lewisham Police Station is at capacity. We would not like to see the important work these teams carry out being hampered by the sale of the station.

We welcome the fact that the consultation document gives assurance that Brockley Police Station will not be closed until an alternative front counter facility is up and running in the area. We would be keen to ensure that the new front counter and SNT Base genuinely is a facility open to and accessible by the public, which we understand is not currently the case with the Brockley and New Cross SNT base on Lewisham Way (We understand that they operate from a shop, but there is no counter service for residents to report crime).

We would like to see some of the money saved from the running costs of the existing building, and the revenue raised by its sale being put into employing someone to staff a front counter for longer hours than the current 10-2pm service provided. We note that Sydenham Police Station is staffed by a paid civilian worker from 9-5pm daily, whereas Brockley is dependent on volunteers.

Furthermore, bearing in mind ongoing efforts by the Council, the local community and businesses to improve the local area, we would be keen to see a good quality shop-front that would enhance the local area and be in keeping with the character.

We are very concerned about the future of the existing building, which as I’m sure you are aware is locally listed and something of an architectural treasure. Assuming the plan is to sell the site off for redevelopment, we would very much hope that a sympathetic conversion into flats, preserving the main Victorian features of the building is proposed.

Concern over scope and validity of consultation
We would like to express our concern and reservation over the way the police have conducted this consultation. We were not informed as ward councillors about this consultation and only found out about it via an article in the South London Press. Considering that the consultation includes proposals to close Brockley Police Station, which is within Ladywell ward, but serves the people of both Brockley and Ladywell ward, we would have expected to be formally consulted as ward councillors.

We were further disappointed to find out that the Safer Neighbourhood Panels for the area were not informed (except by us), and even the volunteer staff at Brockley Police Station were not consulted. In fact, we have yet to find anyone in the wards who has been consulted, so we are uncertain as to what stakeholders have been informed of the proposals. We would recommend that a leaflet outlining the plans for Brockley Police Station and the Safer Neighbourhood Bases is circulated to households in the Brockley and Ladywell wards to give residents an opportunity to comment.

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