SUNDERLAND police officers could soon move into an under-threat fire station as part of controversial new plans.
Northumbria Police announced earlier this year that proposals designed to save £46million from the force’s budget would see Sunderland’s Gill Bridge and Farringdon stations close.
As a result of the closures, a new Southern Command Unit to serve Wearside would be based in South Shields, while officers would be stationed at Sunderland Central and Farringdon fire stations.
But the future of Sunderland Central, in Railway Row, is uncertain because of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s (TWFRS) own budget cuts.
Police chiefs say their proposals are part of a wider programme to relocate officers from outdated buildings which are expensive to run, to new premises.
Fire Brigades Union (FBU) rep Gordon Chalk today said he welcomed the plans because they would keep emergency services in the heart of the city.
He said: “The FBU welcomes anything that will help to save the presence of the police and fire brigade in Sunderland city centre. We also think this will help in keeping the city centre fire station open and that any funding that the fire service got from the police for basing officers there would help to support keeping it that way.
“I know that the ambulance service has ambulances at Fulwell and Washington fire stations so I’m sure this can work.”
Police are now asking residents for their views on the changes.
Information about the proposal is in the City Centre Customer Service Centre next to the Central Library in Fawcett Street, until Tuesday, December 23.
Sunderland MP Julie Elliott said: “I am relieved to see that a public front office premises will be open 24 hours in the city centre. This was an assurance given by the chief constable and I am pleased this is being honoured.”
The proposals support a promise made by chief constable Sue Sim, which was backed by Northumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner Vera Baird, to keep officers in the neighbourhoods they serve.
Ms Baird said: “We want to make sure police officers are based in the heart of their communities; this is vital so they can best serve local people by understanding and meeting their needs. We believe these proposed re-locations will bring benefits to our communities as well as making necessary financial savings.”
A spokeswoman for TWFRS said: “A number of fire stations have been identified as potential bases for neighbourhood policing teams, and we are in discussion with Northumbria Police about these, although no decisions have been made as yet.
“We already have similar arrangements in place with the North East Ambulance Service on a number of stations, and are always happy to work with partners, including the other emergency services, to give the best service that we can.”
Other Sunderland Area Command neighbourhood teams: Sunderland North based at Southwick, Washington at The Galleries and Houghton and Hetton at Houghton station in Dairy Lane, will remain unchanged should the plans get the go-ahead.
The proposals for future policing operations
UNDER the plans, police front office premises would be on duty at Unit 7, 24 Waterloo Place, just off Blandford Street, and would be open to the public 24 hours daily.
Neighbourhood and 24/7 response officers will also have a base at Sunderland Central Community Fire Station, in Railway Row, Millfield, however, all public enquiries would be via the Waterloo Place site.
Sunderland East Neighbourhood Team are proposing to re-locate to Unit 3, The Old Orphanage, in Moor Terrace, Hendon.
They currently work out of Gill Bridge but the new base will give them a home in the heart of the community.
Sunderland West Neighbourhood Policing Team is proposing to move just yards, from Farringdon Hall Police Station to Farringdon Community Fire Station, in North Moor Road.
There would be no changes to the opening hours, which would open to the public Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm.