News that Eastleigh police station has been earmarked for closure has drawn an angry reaction from local Ukip activists but Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes says relocating the station elsewhere in Eastleigh will save money and he has pledged to maintain current policing levels.
Around a dozen protestors gathered outside the 90 year-old Leigh Road Station on Saturday to unfurl a banner demanding:
“Lib Dems and conservatives keep your hands off our police station”
The small group included five Ukip councilors and the Chairs of both the Eastleigh and Winchester branch of the party, along with several candidates who will be standing in the forthcoming local elections.
Cllr Ray Finch is the leader of the Ukip group on Hampshire County Council and is also currently standing as a candidate in the European Elections.
Finch said that spending cuts by the coalition government had led to a shortfall in police budgets and that he believes that Eastleigh Council Leader Keith House wants to replace police officers with PCSOs.
Cllr Andy Moore said he believed the plan is to put policemen in shops or in an office in the new civic offices and he also said he thought that recent crimes against Asians – a murder and a spate of burglaries – showed crime was rising.
Diane James, who came a close second in last years by-election, is also standing for election to the European parliament.
James said that posting policemen in shops and offices would create ‘confusion’ and that Eastleigh was big enough to warrant its own police station.
Diane James went a lot further than Moore or Finch by suggesting the Police Commissioner should ‘fall on his sword’.
“He is obviously not doing his job.
“If he cannot stand for the residents here in Eastleigh he is not fit for purpose.
“He ought to be falling on his sword for even contemplating closing a police station such as this.”
Police Commissioner Hayes told Eastleigh News that the station move was a part of the constabulary’s ‘estates strategy’.
“We are not moving put of Eastleigh, in fact we want to increase neighborhood policing.
“We are looking for a new presence in Eastleigh that is more welcoming and more accessible by the public”
“We certainly wont be moving out of Eastleigh and we wont be moving out of the current building until we have found something better”
“Eastleigh police station is an old building.
“It’s costing Eastleigh taxpayers at least £300,000 a year just to maintain and its not fully used to be efficient and effective to deliver neighborhood policing that is acceptable to the public.
“I am committed to spending the money to maintain the number of police and community support officers across Hampshire
“There will be a chief inspector that is responsible for neighbourhood and partnership working in Eastleigh.”
“Hampshire constabulary and myself are committed to safe neighbourhood working in Eastleigh.”
Eastleigh News understands that plans to develop the police station site for housing have been in place for some time as we reported here in 2011.
Cllr Moore advised that anyone concerned about the future of Eastleigh’s police station should write to the local MP Mike Thornton.