Bedfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Kathryn Holloway, has won outline planning permission which should settle the future of Greyfriars Police Station in central Bedford once and for all.
She addressed a meeting of Bedford Borough Council’s Planning Committee, at Borough Hall (on Monday 25 November 2019) to explain that Bedfordshire Police, its architects and planning officers had been working closely together for a year to come up with a scheme that fitted the council’s plan for the town centre and neighbourhood, yet which allowed her to gain the maximum amount from the sale, for the public and policing.
“I have a statutory responsibility to get the best possible price for Greyfriars for the public purse and everyone knows that a site that is sold with planning permission already agreed, on an outline basis, is worth more,” said the Commissioner.
“We went back with a second proposal after planning officers suggested that the first version had too many storeys and we now have a plan that mixes the homes that are so desperately needed in the Bedford area with the sort of lively street level facility which planners wanted us to include. I cannot praise the officers more highly as they worked with us in true cooperation to allow me to sell Greyfriars in a way that preserves part of the building and extends it further and which allows me to get the top price possible.
“The sale of Greyfriars has not been like selling a conventional home, for example. We tried an open bid process and some bids were made which were not dependent on planning permission and others required it but, at the end of the day, bidders treated the amounts they’d said they were prepared to pay as if these were negotiable expressions of interest. That wasn’t good enough for me: I need a price I can rely on and the public need me to raise the maximum amount of money possible. It made it a no brainer to go for outline planning permission and it matters so much to me that I even travelled more than a hundred miles back from my annual leave to attend the meeting to try to leave nothing to chance!”, said Commissioner Holloway.
The outline permission means that part of the old Greyfriars police station will be converted and the remainder built as a new structure to create a mixed block of 23 flats, including three at ground floor with disabled access, and a ground floor shop or cafe, to add to the street scene in Bedford town centre, as planning officers had required.
“They, quite understandably, want the town centre to be a lively place yet, as we heard at the meeting, new housing is needed desperately and the council only has a three year supply plan currently, rather than the five years they need to identify. I’m particularly pleased that access for those who have mobility issues is being included and that the flats will be a mix of one to three bedroom homes,” said PCC Holloway.
The money raised from the Greyfriars sale will be used to fund the building of a new custody suite at Kempston Police HQ.
“Money raised from the sale of buildings can only be used on other buildings or capital investment, not on officers, according to public sector spending rules. We have a temporary custody block at the moment at Kempston, serving the north of the county, which needs to be replaced and the sale of Greyfriars will fund this. I fully intend to proceed with the plans concerning this new custody suite as soon as possible in 2020.
“Not only that but I intend to sell the temporary custody block when we have a new facility to raise extra funds for Bedfordshire Police,” said the PCC.