Fresh calls to halt planned station closure

Whitley Bay police station
Whitley Bay police station

Fears have been raised that crime could increase should Whitley Bay lose its permanent police station.

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition calling on Northumbria Police to halt the planned closure of the station in Laburnum Avenue as part of a cost-cutting measures.

Local resident Frank Austin collected the names in just one day while in Park View Shopping Centre and he believes the community should have been involved in the plans.

Speaking to the News Guardian, he said: “I’m calling on Vera Baird (Northumbria Police & Crime Commissioner) to halt the closure and have a proper consultation.

“You don’t close a police station if you don’t have a Plan B. They are now asking people for suggestions where the new station could be.”

Northumbria Police have stated that the station will not close until alternative accommodation has been found in the town.

But Mr Austin says that there is no other site as they would have moved by now.

He fears that the loss of the station could result in longer waits for police officers to turn up at incidents.

He said a recent brawl involving 40 youngsters, which resulted in a Metro being stopped at Shiremoor Metro Station, had started at the funfair on The Links at Whitley Bay.

“Some people living on The Links got caught up in the aggro,” said Mr Austin. “Security at the fairground couldn’t handle it, so called the police, who got pelted by missiles when they arrived. They had to call for reinforcements.

“Whitley Bay is a seaside town. South Parade isn’t what it used to be but we still get touring sports teams here and some stag parties.

“What happens if they get out of hand?

“How long (after the station closes) before people coming here realise there is no police station and think they can get away with crimes?”

Chief Constable Sue Sim said: “I have given my commitment to protecting visible policing in our communities.

“Before existing police stations close alternative bases will be sought within the heart of the community so officers remain available and easily accessible.

“Neighbourhood officers will remain in the communities they serve being based in accommodation familiar to the neighbourhoods where they work.

“Whenever people talk about closing police stations they may have concerns, however changes will not be introduced suddenly and will only be implemented once full consultation with those affected has taken place.

“Even then implementation will be phased and this is dependent on identifying new community-based locations.”

Patrick Melia, chief executive of North Tyneside Council, said: “Our priority is to keep North Tyneside as the safest metropolitan borough in the north east.

“We achieve that by working together with Northumbria Police, not just in buildings, but also out an about in the community addressing the issues that are important to residents.

“We have already worked very successfully with the force in addressing their need for office accommodation in Killingworth by providing space in the White Swan Customer First Centre which brings a range of services for the public under one roof.

“We are committed to continuing to work with them to ensure a successful alternative base is found in Whitley Bay and have been reassured that the police station will not close until an alternative base is found.

“We are confident this will have no impact on the level of policing provided in the area.”