A FURIOUS row erupted this week after it was announced that Dromara Police Station has been closed without any consultation with Lisburn City Council, the District Policing Partnership or the Dromara Community Police Liaison Committee.
The decision to close the station was taken on January 15 and the station was closed on January 20, before members of the DPP were informed later that evening. The move led DPP Chairman, Alderman Jim Dillon to question to point of the District Policing Partnership.
"What is the point in having the DPP if they are treated in such contempt?" asked Mr Dillon.
He said it was only after the DPP meeting on January 20th had finished that he was informed Dromara station was no longer in operation.
They behaved in an underhand manner," said Mr Dillon, "I can't describe it as anything else. The minute the meeting was over Chief Inspector David Moore came up and said Dromara station had closed."
Mr Dillon said he met the Chief Inspector again on Tuesday and received a letter from Mr Moore stating: "I can confirm the decision to discontinue the public opening hours at Dromara station with effect from Tuesday 20 January.
"This decision was taken on Thursday 15 January 2009. It was my deliberate intention that no public comment on this decision would be made prior to my announcement to the District Policing Partnership, at a private meeting which I attended on Tuesday 20 January."
He continued: "I am happy to confirm absolutely that there never existed any expectation that either the District Policing Partnership or Lisburn City Council had any role in disseminating this decision to any other individual or corporate body. This role was for the Service to undertake."
Councillors who spoke at this week's monthly meeting were unanimous in expressing their disappointment at the handling of the closure and agreed to write to the Policing Board. Acting Chief Executive, Dr Debbie Donnelly, Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde and Chief Inspector Moore.
Councillor Allan Ewart said he was 'shocked and annoyed'.
"To announce the closure in a letter from Chief Inspector Moore to Alderman Dillon the Chairman of the DPP is an insult to everyone who has been involved in the process" he said.
"What is the point of local CPLCs, the DPP and the Council in being asked for their views if the PSNI are going to ride roughshod over everyone? I think a lot of work has now to be done by the PSNI to put confidence into the community and the local CPLCs who have worked tirelessly to keep the station open, but to no avail.
Alderman Edwin Poots claimed the saving from the closure would be £7,900, which he described as a "miniscule amount of money."
Councillor Jonathan Craig said, "This is a community that through the troubles fully supported the police, and some paid the ultimate price for their support."
He added: "Someone has thrown the rule book out and is ignoring elected members in Northern Ireland. I think it is a disgraceful treatment of Policing Board members."
THE Police Service has said that the closure of Dromara Station was part of a five-year Estate Strategy which was drawn up in 2005.
A Police spokesperson commented: "The Police Service drew up a five-year Estate Strategy in 2005. This was endorsed by the Policing Board. The strategy is an evolving process. It is a balance between investment in new builds, station improvement and softening and a review of the number and viablity of stations. That review by operational District Commanders is continuous and ongoing, in line with our duty as a publicly-funded body to use all of our resources, including buildings, in the most effective and value-for money way.
"Since the strategy was introduced four years ago, 22 police stations have been closed. Following extensive public consultation, the PSNI had intended putting proposals to the Board for 16 further specific station closures during a meeting that was due to take place on 15th January. However that meeting was postponed and is now expected to take place in February. Dromara station was one of the 16, and further details around this will be disclosed to the Board at that time
In the meantime, area commanders will continue to review the process."