Police stations set for closure

BROWNLOW and Portadown police stations could be earmarked for closure, it has been revealed.

The proposed changes, which are part of the PSNI’s ‘estate strategy’, would leave Lurgan station covering the entire Borough of Craigavon.

In all, five stations in E District could face possible close, much to the concern of unionist politicians.

DUP MLA Stephen Moutray described the news as “alarming”.

He said: “The DUP fully supports the PSNI.

“However, that does not mean that we will not reserve the right to criticise individual operations, or policy decisions.

“This area has one of the highest security risks from dissident republican terror groups.

“We have also witnessed serious sporadic public disorder.

“The withdrawal of police cover from Craigavon and Portadown without adequate additional resources being made available for Lurgan would be a serious retrograde step.”

He continued: “It is vital that people are not left vulnerable.

“It is also vital that places like Lurgan are not left over-stretched as a result of being left to cover ever greater distances and ever larger areas.

“We simply cannot afford a situation in which officers will be pulled away from Lurgan only to leave Lurgan exposed.”

Ulster Unionist MLA Sam Gardiner expressed his concern at the plans, saying it would place a strain on police resources.

He said: “I have concerns that the closure of police stations will stretch an already overworked police service too far. It will create operational areas which are too large and difficult to cover.

“My concerns are partly based on what I believe to be the under-manning of the police service which already exists. During the recent riots in London it emerged that the Metropolitan Police had 36,862 officers (including special constables) to cover a population of 7,556,900. That is one officer for every 205 citizens. The PSNI has 7,500 officers to cover a population of 1,799,000. That is one officer for every 239 citizens. This indicates a shortfall of some 1,275 officers.

“In addition to this the Metropolitan Police has 13,444 support staff which represents a ratio of one for every 562 citizens. The PSNI has only 2,700 support staff which represents a ratio of one for every 666 citizens. This equates to a shortfall of 501 support staff. The fewer the support staff, the more clerical work the Police officers on the ground have to do which gets in the way of their police duties.

“It seems to me, logically, that the only people who want to see the PSNI underfunded and undermanned are lawbreakers or those who would countenance lawbreaking.”

Sinn Fein’s Cllr Noel McGeown expressed “surprise” at the news when contacted by the ‘MAIL’.

“The local Policing Partnership has no indication that there are any imminent plans to close Brownlow station,” he said.

“While this part-time station has been under constant review from before the formation of the PSNI, there has been no suggestion of any short-term plans to close it completely.

“In the initial Craigavon Borough plan the main Police Station was to be located in the centre of the Borough beside the courthouse, and Brownlow was to be served by a local enquiry office.

“With the benefit of hindsight it is obvious that the planners had it right and the long term sustainability of such a large site in Brownlow is financially questionable. The cost to the public purse of maintaining a site much larger than needed will inevitably become harder and harder to justify.”

A spokesperson for the PSNI said: “The Strategy will now go before a full Board meeting in December, which the Northern Ireland Policing Board will confirm. Decisions on the recommendations will be taken at or following that meeting.”