BATH POLICE STATION: Plans for city centre station take a step forward
Long-awaited plans for a new police station in the centre of Bath appear to have taken a step forward – two years after opposing sides claimed victory.
Avon and Somerset Police is set to expand its use of Lewis House in Manvers Street after signing a lease with owner Bath and North East Somerset Council.
The force currently has an enquiry desk in the building following the sale of its old police station across the road to the University of Bath in December 2015 for £7million.
Most of the city’s officers are based at a separate site in Lower Bristol Road.
The announcement may sound familiar – Conservative former council leader Tim Warren said in 2019 ahead of the local elections he was “delighted” to strike a deal with the police, while his Liberal Democrat rival Dine Romero welcomed the decision after campaigning with Bath MP Wera Hobhouse.
Police and crime commissioner Sue Mountstevens said at the time: “I’m pleased that we can increase the neighbourhood policing presence in the heart of the city opposite the very site of the old police station.
“While the policing resources for Bath have not changed I hope that residents will be reassured by our commitments to the city, thanks to the support of B&NES Council.”
In a similar statement issued on Friday, Ms Mountstevens said: “We are delighted to be co-locating with our partners at B&NES Council in Lewis House, which will ensure the visibility of the neighbourhood police team and accessibility to the enquiry office.”
She previously said the old Manvers Street police station was far too big and cost £200,000 a year to maintain, but by selling it she could protect 140 officers’ jobs.
According to a freedom of information request, the force has sold 29 properties collectively worth £34million over the last decade.
B&NES Council has been rethinking its use of Lewis House, home to its One Stop Shop, and recently signed a deal with the University of Bath, giving it temporary access to the upper floors to create a socially distanced study space.
The next steps will be to submit a planning application for the work to alter the building to meet the needs of the police and council employees, as well as improving the visibility of the services for the community.
Cllr Romero, who succeeded Cllr Warren as council leader, said on Friday: “I am delighted that the prospect of a police station returning to the heart of the city has taken this important step forward and am looking forward to welcoming neighbourhood police officers to their new station later this year.”
Cllr Sue Craig added: “Lib Dem councillors and Bath residents have been calling for the return of our police station for over five years, so this is very welcome news. I know the administration has been working hard to reach this agreement with Avon and Somerset Police.
“A police station is an important facility for a busy city with many visitors. We need that prominent presence, so people know where to go for help.
“Lib Dems have argued that a ‘proper’ police station needs to be visible, central and accessible to residents. This new facility fits the bill and we look forward to learning more details about opening hours and services in due course.”
Subject to planning permission, work is hoped to begin later this year.
The police enquiry desk in Lewis House is currently closed in line with government guidelines.
Words: Stephen Sumner, Local Democracy Reporter
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