From Keighley News, 16th August 2017
Written by David Knights
DISMAY has greeted the shock announcement this week that Keighley Police Station is to be sold off. It is among a total of seven properties to be offloaded by West Yorkshire Police, including the former station in Bingley. But MPs and councillors have attacked the decision.
Airedale House police station in Royd Ings Avenue, Keighley, will be disposed of once alternative arrangements for the Neighbourhood Policing Team and helpdesk have been found.
Opened in 2005 as the divisional headquarters of Keighley police, the £4 million building has seen the leaching to Bradford in recent years of key services, including custody cells, CID and specialist units.
Senior officers say the move will help save money and divert more resources into front-line policing.
But the sell-off has been fiercely criticised by the town’s MP John Grogan and several ward councillors as alternative premises have yet to be found.
Mr Grogan said: “I have had assurances from the police and from the office of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner that the police station will not be sold off in Keighley until a long-term alternative has been identified.
“Despite this, I am not at all happy the police estates department, which has the responsibility to find a new site, has seemingly made little progress to date in doing so.
“I will be urging for the estates department to make this task their number one priority – the people of Keighley deserve nothing less.”
“If a town centre site for a new Keighley police station can be found it would in fact be a lot more visible than the current station, which has been half empty since the divisional command was concentrated in Bradford.
“I have offered to move out of my own new offices in the Keighley Civic Centre if the police want to occupy part of what was the old police station. Whatever the solution, it needs to be reached with some urgency otherwise all the recent good news about increased police numbers in Keighley risks being undermined.”
Mr Grogan added: “Many people, including myself, have been talking about this issue since 2015. I have arranged a meeting with Bradford Police Chief Superintendent Scott Bisset on his return from holiday to urge him to encourage his colleagues in the estates department to make this task their number one priority – the people of Keighley deserve nothing less.”
Councillor Khadim Hussain, who represents Central Ward, is angry police services have been gradually depleted in Keighley leaving a “shell” at Airedale House.
He added: “Keighley is serving quite a large area and I think they’re making a terrible mistake to close the place. We need a strong presence.”
Bingley Police Station has not been used for the deployment of officers since 2015.
Shipley MP Philip Davies said: “It is a sad situation and not one I would support.
“But the reality of the situation is they don’t use Bingley Police Station anymore. It is an empty building.
“Is there any point in West Yorkshire Police keeping a building they are not using? In a tight financial climate, it makes sense to sell it.”
Police chiefs have promised the Keighley station will be replaced by a public helpdesk – open at least 12 hours each day – in the town centre, also pledging the same number of officers will continue operating in the area.
West Yorkshire Deputy Chief Constable, John Robins, assured policing will not suffer.
“Response times will not change as a result of these plans and the existing operational deployment centres, which are not changing, will ensure we continue to police all areas effectively,” he said.
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson added: “This is not just about the money, although we have had to face challenges as our budget has been reduced by about £140 million since 2010. This is about providing newer and better placed police buildings for our officers and staff to work from.”
Other Keighley councillors see the announcement as a positive move.
Michael Westerman, chairman of Keighley Town Council’s watch and transport committee, said it would be “brilliant” to have police back in central Keighley.
He added: “So long as we’re not losing ‘boots on the ground’ it’s not a problem, and Keighley police inspector Khalid Khan has assured me we’re not.”
Abid Hussain, the Lord Mayor of Bradford and a Keighley Central councillor, said: “It’s a positive move back to the town centre. It’s the best thing we can have – the police station must not move out of the Keighley community.”