High price tag for police station opens the doors to developers

High price tag for police station opens the doors to developers

26th July 2019

THE borough council has lost out on the chance to buy the town centre police station which is now likely to be sold to developers.

Councillors were told last week that the authority would now not be bidding for the police station as it was too expensive.

As revealed in the Times in May, Kent Police and Crime Commissioner [PCC], Matthew Scott, wants to sell off the police station as a money saving exercise.

Police no longer need the building since officers were moved to nearby Tonbridge Police Station last year.

At the time, Mr Scott’s office said Tunbridge Wells Borough Council would have ‘first refusal’ on any sale of the 1930s Art Deco building in Crescent Road, which sits next to the council-owned Assembly Hall Theatre.

But at last week’s Full Council meeting, it emerged that Mr Scott wants £2million for the building, four times its worth according to the Valuation Office Agency and far more than the council can possibly pay for it.

Valuer

Pembury councillor, David Hayward from the Alliance, had insisted the building could be part of an ‘alternative’ to the controversial £90million theatre and civic centre complex proposed for the edge of Calverley Grounds.

But Cllr Bob Backhouse, told him from the Conservative bench that buying the police station was a ‘red herring’.

The Sherwood councillor said: “The council were very keen to buy the police station. The District Valuer said it was worth around £500,000. They are selling it for £2million.”

He added: “We as a council or any public body are not allowed to buy any building over what the District Valuer says, so bringing the police station into the equation is a red herring.”

The news means that Matthew Scott will be forced to find another buyer for the listed building if he presses on with plans to sell the property, which would most likely see it sold off to developers.

The sale is part of ‘efficiency savings’ announced by the PCC earlier this year for his drive to introduce more rank and file officers to the region.

Kent is fastest growing force

The Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner [PCC] Matthew Scott announced last week that Kent Police is now the fasting growing force in the country, having recruited 291 police officers in the last year alone, taking the number of full time officers to 3,553.

To pay for these officers, Mr Scott recently put up the police precept part of council tax from £169.15 for a Band D property to £193.15, adding an extra £1million to the council tax bills of Tunbridge Wells’ residents who now pay around £10million a year on funding Kent Police.

Recruiting

Mr Scott said: “Residents told me they wanted more police on our streets and so I took the difficult decision to raise council tax to enable the Chief Constable to recruit 200 more officers.

“I congratulate the Kent Police recruitment team on not only delivering on that number, but on making an early start on recruiting the further 180 police officers for this year.

He continued: “Kent Police is on course to increase its police officer strength to 3,632 by next March. We will have 450 more police officers in spring 2020 than when I took office in spring 2016.”

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