HOUSING PLANS: The site of the former Bede Kirk police station
HOUSING PLANS: The site of the former Bede Kirk police station

AFTER a week in which Barnard Castle has been battered by winter, one of Durham Police’s senior officers says the snow has been a “timely reminder” of why the town needs properly-equipped police.

Officers based at the new police station, in Wilson Street, have worked “tirelessly” to keep Teesdale safe, rescuing stranded drivers and keeping motorists moving on top of their traditional job of combatting crime.

Gary Ridley, Durham Constabulary’s assistant chief officer, said last week’s weather shows why the police need to be properly resourced and why it is vital that the controversial sale of the former Barnard Castle police station at Bede Kirk goes through.

He said: “Our officers work in rain, hail, snow or shine to keep the people of Barnard Castle safe. We have had officers sleeping in stations to ensure they were available for duty.

“Over the last week, we have rescued stranded drivers from the roads around Teesdale, we have responded to snow-related emergencies and our officers have stayed out in all weathers doing what they do best – protecting the public.

“To do that, we need enough officers; we need 4x4s which can get to where they are needed; we need radios which work at the top of the dale; all the kit which means we can keep going when others can’t. If ever there was a week which demonstrated that our cops need the proper resources to do their jobs then this was it”.

Durham Police wants to sell its former station in Barnard Castle for a six-figure sum and “plough the money back into support for frontline policing”, while opponents want to have the grounds of the Bede Kirk site declared a protected village green. They say it is a much-loved green space with important history.

Old Well

Durham’s Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner Ron Hogg hopes to sell the vacant site, which was home to the town’s police station from 1977 until last year, to a Darlington-based developer to build 22 bungalows for the elderly.

Roughly half the 1.36-acre site is occupied by the empty police buildings and half by the station’s grounds.

Although the force is unable to say how much the site is worth due to commercial sensitivities, it is expected to generate a six-figure sum to support frontline policing – which Chief Constable Mike Barton described last month as creating a choice “between cops or a copse”. It prompted a backlash from residents who accused him of making threats.

Mr Ridley said: “The Government expects forces to raise money from the disposal of surplus assets by seeking open market value.

“This in turn provides funding to support the frontline though buying equipment.

“For example, investing in new vehicles reduces the need for maintenance of older police cars and maintaining expensive buildings when cheaper buildings are available is poor value for money.

“Tree preservation and landscaping will be reviewed in detail by the local planning authority in consideration of any application and the developer will be required to demonstrate how their scheme visually fits into its setting.”