Margaret Tolerton, Edwin Poots, Branda Hale and Jonathon Craig of the DUP pictured with Dunmurry Residents Outside Dunmurry PSNI Station which is due for Closure. US4611-173A0
PLANS presented to the Policing Board to close three local PSNI Stations have been met with anger.
Local politicians have hit out at the news that Dunmurry, Hillsborough and Dromore stations face the axe.
Lagan Valley MLA and Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said he was 'extremely concerned for the future of community policing in Lagan Valley'.
"This will leave much of Lagan Valley without a police presence and replicates what is happening across the United Kingdom at the hands of the Tory-led Government, a party once recognised as the party of law and order" he said. "I fear the loss of these stations will have a huge impact on community policing, ensuring that police are not present when they need to be there and that response times will only get worse given the distance these three villages are away from Lisburn Police Station."
MLA Paul Givan and Downshire Councillor Paul Stewart also expressed concerns. Mr Givan said the proposed closures would have a "detrimental effect" on the communities and is appealing to the members of the Policing Board to reconsider the proposed closure.
'At a time when the terrorist threat in Northern Ireland is significant, such a move would infuse a sense of insecurity into many members of the community who feel vulnerable. The overall aim of the PSNI is to 'make Northern Ireland safer for everyone through professional, progressive policing'. To achieve this aim, a community-driven approach has been implemented to identify potential threats and problems. In light of this I believe the Policing Board has failed these communities with the proposed closure.
"Dunmurry village is demographically quite a divided community with it bordering both the Lagan Valley and West Belfast constituencies. The proposed removal of this police station could potentially cause an increase in crime due to the lack of presence within this area."
Mr Givan continued, "In Lagan Valley we are proud to host many Royal visits and significant high security visits at Hillsborough Castle. Therefore, I feel it would be of high importance to maintain a police presence in Hillsborough for this purpose. "
DPP member Mr Stewart said the proposed closure of Hillsborough police station was 'disconcerting'. "The area I represent is a vast rural one which has already seen the demolition of one police station recently. If this proposal is proceeded with, it is likely that individuals m rural Downshire will no longer see any significant police presence. The rural community will find this a bitter blow to local policing and the service they receive from the PSNI will suffer greatly if their closest police station is located in Lisburn."
A spokesperson for the Policing Board said: "Members of the Policing Board's Resources and Improvement Committee received a detailed briefing today from PSNI on the 2011 Estate Strategy. Ensuring that the police estate meets current and future policing requirements is a key priority for the Board. As the owners of the police estate, the Board needs to be satisfied that the estate is being managed effectively and efficiently. Board Members have asked for further information on a number of issues. The Strategy, which covers the budget period to 2015, will now be considered by the Board at its December meeting."
Pictured at Hillsborough Police Station which the Chief Constable is reviewing with a view to closure are:(I-r) Alderman Paul Givan, MLA; Alderman Jonathan Craig, MLA; Ms Greta Mahood, Vice-Chalr of Lisburn DPP; Mr David Reid, Chairperson of Hillsborough CPLC; Councillor Margaret Tolerton, Chairman of Lisburn DPP; Alderman Wllliam Leathem, Deputy Mayor of Lisburn; Ms Brenda Hale, MLA; Mr Trevor Lunn, MLA and Councillor Paul Stewart who are all opposed to this proposal.
THE Chair of Lisburn's District Policing Partnership has labeled the plans to close Dunmurry and Hillsborough police stations as a "retrograde step".
Councillor Margaret Tolerton says the Policing Board needs to carefully reconsider their proposals as closure of these stations will have massive implications for the area. Speaking this week Mrs. Tolerton said she will be organising a cross delegation party to meet the Chief Constable and the Chairman of the Policing Board as soon as possible to discuss the proposals. She also intends to meet local commander Chief Superintendent Henry Irvine later this week.
Mrs. Tolerton said: "We have had our fingers burnt with Dromara police station closing and we are determined this will not be repeated."
Speaking about Hillsborough station Mrs Tolerton listed reasons why it should remain open. These included in excess of £420,000 has been spent on refurbishment of the station in recent years; The area will be left with inadequate policing cover; Hillsborough hosts dignitaries regularly and security is important; People will lose heart in their community were a pro active relationship currently exists between the policing team and the community. The Chair said: "If Dromore closes too this will effectively mean that there will be no police station between Lisburn and Newcastle."
Regarding Dumurry Mrs Tolerton pointed out that 1/5 of crime for Lisburn happens in the Dunmurry area and that a dissident Republican threat does exist and there is political consensus that it should remain open.
Councillor Uel Mackin agreed with Mrs Tolerton's reasons to keep Hillsborough police station open.
He said: "With the best will in the world a rural community cannot be effectively policed from a significantly distant location. Of course it will be said that this is only a review and there is nothing to fear or this is a consultation process or no decisions have been taken. Whilst these comments may be true I believe that to place Hillsborough station, which already operates on restricted opening hours, on a review list in the first place indicates there is a real possibility of closure. One just has to think back a few years when Dromara station was on such a list.
"As an elected representative for the Downshire area of Lisburn City Council I feel strongly that priority must be given to the needs of those who live in rural communities over a cost saving exercise which may resuite in marginal savings."
Councillor James Baird also wants Hillsborough Station to remain open. He is concerned with police response times which "could be detrimentally affected if they are moved to Moira Station as indicated which is only two miles from Lurgan Station." He continued: "This move if allowed to happen will leave parts of Downshire with inferior and sub standard cover."
Mr Baird asked the question of who actually owns this site - something which is still to be determined explained the DPP Chair.
Mr Baird said: "Is it the Police Authority or the Downshire Estate, as with other properties of this type they were given to the community for use by the community for a specific purpose. Once they are no longer used for the purposes that they were given the property goes back to the Downshire Estate. If this is the case with Hillsborough PSNI Station what benefit to the Policing Board or The Police Authority will the closure of this station be.
"I have major concerns over the closure of the Hillsborough and urge everyone to contact the Policing Board and register their objections."