Police plan for 'super station' in Black Country to move forward after red tape delay

Plans for a multi-million pound West Midlands Police “super-station” in the Black Country are set to move forward after being delayed due to red-tape.

Then-Dudley North MP Ian Austin and Councillor Kieran Casey on the site of the proposed new police station in Hall Street in 2019
Then-Dudley North MP Ian Austin and Councillor Kieran Casey on the site of the proposed new police station in Hall Street in 2019

A plot of land on Hall Street, Dudley, has been earmarked to become a main police base for the region since 2019 and was originally planned to open this year.

But amid a row between council bosses and police chiefs the project has met with a series of logjams, and as yet no planning application has been submitted despite a price for the land being agreed.

Local leaders today vowed to get “shovels in the ground” to turn the project into a reality.

Then-Dudley North MP Ian Austin and Councillor Kieran Casey on the site of the proposed new police station in Hall Street in 2019

However a number of issues still need to be ironed out, including the removal of a public footpath on the land and a dispute over the site’s boundaries.

Lord Austin campaigned for a new police station in the town when he was Dudley North MP, saying the development was vital to help cut crime.

The station, thought to be £30 million, is expected to serve as a Black Country police HQ and will feature a public-facing front desk.

Dudley town centre has been without a police station since late 2017 when the station on New Street closed as part of cost cutting plans by the force to save £8.6 million.

The Hall Street site was earmarked for a large mosque for more than a decade, but following a series of disputes the scheme collapsed due to financial issues.

After red tape delays, can plan for police base finally become reality?

It was hailed as the Black Country’s new police HQ – featuring a front desk and serving as a base for dozens of officers from senior inspectors to the rank and file.

But in the two years since plans for Dudley’s new ‘super station’ were first unveiled, the project has crawled along at a snail’s pace and will not be opening this year as originally planned.

Despite the financial terms of the multi-million pound deal having long been agreed, behind the scenes an almighty row has been taking place, resulting in the scheme getting caught up in red tape.

Now, finally, hope is on the horizon, with political leaders and police chiefs seemingly striking an uneasy truce in a bid to turn the station plan into a reality.

One issue that everyone agrees on is that the project is crucial for a town which has seen a significant rise in crime in recent years, and has been without a station since the one on New Street closed in 2017.

For Dudley Council, it would also see a major development on land on Hall Street that has stood derelict for years, having previously been the subject of an ill-fated scheme for a giant mosque.

Issues

The issues faced by the project include who owns a retaining wall on the site, and what needs to be done to it to ensure it is safe; confirmation of the removal of a public right of way which runs through the site; and exactly where the boundary of the site falls.

Now it has emerged that, in a bid to end the deadlock, a meeting has taken place between Marco Longhi, Conservative MP for Dudley North, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, Dudley Council leader Patrick Harley, and the authority’s chief executive Kevin O’Keefe.

Mr Longhi said they were now working together to get the “blockages resolved”.

He said: “I know how important this is to the people of Dudley and I am committed to getting it built.

"This has been the talk of the town for too long, we want to see shovels in the ground.

"We have seen a spike in violent crime locally and a strong police presence in the town has a key role to help combat this.”

The MP said the issues could “easily be overcome” in a short period of time, adding: “I am really looking forward to getting this important development for Dudley sorted and seeing a modern police station in our town. I will not rest until it is built.”

Progress

Labour PCC Mr Jamieson said progress on the site would be “rapid” once a “council logjam” had been overcome.

But Tory council leader Mr Harley said the delay was down to a lack of urgency by Mr Jamieson and his team.

Mr Jamieson said: “We made a promise of a new police station near the centre of the town and we are sticking by that promise.

"We are keen to proceed on the Hall Street site but have been waiting on the council to confirm the exact boundaries of the site, a right of way that crosses it and potential issues regarding a boundary wall.

“We have been pressing the council for some time on those details so we can protect the public purse, complete the purchase and then immediately get a planning application in.

"We have detailed plans ready to go and our commitment to a central Dudley police station is unwavering, we just need to break the council logjam on those details of their site and then the progress will be rapid.”

Councillor Harley said: “Any delay is down to the lack of urgency shown by Mr Jamieson and his ever-growing number of highly paid hangers-on.

"West Midlands Police offered a reasonable amount for the land, they provided sufficient funds to deal with the issues they are now encountering.

"Mr Jamieson should really stop whining and simply get his team to move full speed ahead on providing a new police station which is even more urgent after he ordered the closure of the previous one in Dudley town centre.”

Labour councillor Keiran Casey, who in 2019 campaigned for the station alongside then-Dudley North MP Ian Austin, said he was pleased to hear that the scheme finally looked like it was about to get off the ground.

He said: “It is welcome news that Dudley Council are finally going to end their dithering and delaying, addressing any questions about their land so the police can get on and build this much wanted new station at the heart of the town.”

Over a decade starting in the early 2000s a series of plans were drawn up by the Dudley Muslim Association for the site, which sits next to the Alan Nuttall factory, to cater for increased demand at the town’s Central Mosque.

However, the plans met with widespread public opposition and the project was eventually shelved due to financial issues.

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