Woking police station to remain open for now

WOKING’S police station will remain open for longer than expected after a decision to keep Surrey Police headquarters at Mount Browne in Guildford.

The building, the former boys’ grammar school in Station Approach, had been expected to be closed and sold off when the county headquarters moved to a new base in Leatherhead.

SIGN OF THE TIMES – Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend at Mount Browne, which will be redeveloped and remain the Surrey Force’s headquarters

However, the decision to remain at Mount Browne was agreed by the Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend and the force’s chief officer team after an independent review of the future of the Surrey Police estate.

Will Forster, Liberal Democrat borough councillor for Hoe Valley and a county councillor for Woking South, questioned the impact the change of plan would have on the borough at a Police and Crime Panel meeting.

“The police were going to close Woking police station after they had opened their new headquarters in Leatherhead,” Cllr Forster said.  “In response to my question, Lisa Townsend agreed that Woking police station will remain open until the new headquarters has been opened – this time on the existing Mount Browne site. 

“Although it is early days, it is not expected to be ready before 2029, meaning our police station will remain open much longer. The police plan to sell the site for redevelopment after they leave, but now that will be much later than originally planned.

“Woking’s police station is fully operational,” Cllr Forster added. “Plenty of officers and staff are based there, with the neighbourhood team and public counter at the civic offices.”

Cllr Will Forster at Woking Police Station

The commissioner said that the policing landscape had “shifted significantly” in the wake of COVID-19 and that, having considered all options, redeveloping the Guildford site offered the best value for money for the Surrey public.

The former Electrical Research Association (ERA) and Cobham Industries site in Leatherhead was purchased by Surrey Police for £20.5 million in March 2019 with the intention of replacing a number of existing police locations in the county, including the present headquarters in Guildford.

However, plans to develop the site were paused in June this year while an independent review, commissioned by Surrey Police, was carried out by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting (CIPFA) to look specifically at the financial implications of the project.

Following recommendations from CIPFA, it was decided three options would be considered for the future: to continue with plans for the Leatherhead base, to look at an alternative site elsewhere in the county or to redevelop the present headquarters at Mount Browne.

After a detailed assessment, a decision was taken that the best option was to redevelop Mount Browne. The site in Leatherhead will now be sold.

Lisa Townsend said: “Designing a new headquarters is probably the biggest single investment that Surrey Police will make and it is vital we get it right.  The most important factor is that we provide value for money for our residents and deliver an even better policing service for them.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Chief Constable Gavin Stephens said: “Although Leatherhead offered us a new alternative to our headquarters, both in design and location, it had become clear that it was becoming increasingly harder to achieve our long-term dreams and ambitions.

“The pandemic has presented new opportunities to re-think how we can use our Mount Browne site. This is an exciting opportunity.”

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