Sunday, January 22, 2012

Acocks Green Police Station - update

Talking to Cllr Jones about the police station
I'm delighted that we have an ongoing commitment from the Police Authority to a policing presence in Acocks Green. This morning, I had a brief street meeting with members of the local community, Cllr Stewart Stacey and Cllr Bob Jones, the chair of the West Midlands Police Authority Finance and Resources Committee to discuss the future of the Edwardian police station in Acocks Green. A report in the Birmingham Mail this week said that Acocks Green police station - along with Steelhouse Lane and Erdington - could be under threat of closure. Despite the dramatic headline, that isn't quite the story.

Cllr Jones, me (windswept) and Cllr Stacey
 Unsurprisingly, this has caused some considerable concern in the community and Cllr Stacey and I thought it was right to arrange a quick, informal meeting of interested parties to understand what lies ahead and how we can influence the decisions.

The Finance and Resources Committee has submitted a report to the full Police Authority for approval. At this stage, it only authorises further work to examine options. Cllr Jones was quite clear that no decision has been taken at this stage and in any case, the spending isn't planned in until 2014-15.

It is possible that the station will move to a different, central, high profile location within the ward - possibly co-located with another public service - and the site opened up for development as housing. There is no site proposed for relocation and it is hard to see where one could be found that would meet the demands of being central.

That is an option where we would need to be alert to the preservation of a striking building that exemplifies the Victorian/Edwardian attitude to the importance of public services. It sits in the middle of a proposed conservation area, which illustrates the growth of suburban Birmingham around the rail network. In fact, if you look at the coat of arms just below the roofline, you can see a badge emblazoned with the Worcestershire pears. The station was built as part of an unsuccessful campaign by Worcestershire council to win hearts and minds and keep the Yardley area within their county - there's a similar former police station on the Coventry Road that has now been converted to a pub and also bears a similar shield.

Around the corner on Alexander Road is a fine example of how these buildings can be preserved. The tiny fire station was surplus to requirements in the 1980s and was initially scheduled for demolition to provide additional space in the police yard. Cllr Stacey was just on the planning committee at that point and recalls that they rejected that plan, so the building is now converted for use as an architect's practice - preserving the street scene and an historic building.

 It is also open to the service to refurbish the existing site, which is too large for their planned requirements, and seek additional tenants for the unused space - perhaps an NHS commissioning group or other suitable tenant could take up part of the site.

This is an issue that will remain on the political radar for some time to come and I was really pleased to get assurances from Cllr Jones that the future of the police in Acocks Green is specifically assured - we just now need to secure the future of this building.

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