From left to right in the picture above are, Zahid Butt, Inspector Ian O’Brien, Divisional Commander David Oldroyd, Councillor Gerry Harper and Chris Dickinson. Newly elected councillor Christine Towler was also present at the meeting. The meeting began with an address from Commander Oldroyd.
Commander Oldroyd The depot costs £130,000 per annum to run. We could rent the new building from the university for about £20,000 per annum. Parts of the old building are condemned. The roof leaks. It’s too big for what we need. The majority of it is a huge car park. Our first option was to close it and move to Weetwood or Pudsey. But this wasn’t a practical solution. The clock was ticking with regards to the Environmental Health people and the Fire Brigade. Then we came across the university site which would save us £100,000. We can move everything from Belle Vue Road to the university. We’ve several parking spaces at the rear of the premises. There’ll still be a Starburst Effect as officers leave the new building. I’m not getting into bed with the university.
Sue Thomas There won’t be a Starburst Effect on Kelso Road where I live.
Gentleman Will someone be keeping an eye on the crime rate here after you’ve moved?
Commander Oldroyd I do that every day.
Gentleman I know five officers are leaving because they’ve nowhere to park.
Commander Oldroyd Numbers will stay the same.
Derek Pyper I’ve been privileged to have the police lock-up on my doorstep for a number of years. Yes, the building is old and ramshackle. But it has the huge advantage that you’re at the heart of a dense community. Where you’re going is bang in the middle of the university. Whereas here, you come out of the front door and there are families.
Councillor Harper You will still have officers, but you want the visibility.
Mercia Southon Your Design and Access Statement makes it sound like the move is indeed about getting into bed with the university. It would appear from what it says there that the university needs a police station on campus to qualify as a world ranking university.
Inspector O’Brien Both universities currently fund an officer each.
Mercia Southon Quite right too. Most of the crime in this area is caused by students leaving their doors open.
Gentleman Are you accusing students of being responsible for the crime in this area?
Mercia Southon I’m stating a fact, which the police are free to contradict. But they are the source of the information.
Ben Fisher The figure is 38%
Howard Eaglestone There needs to be more effort put into regenerating our urban area and the police are an essential element of our area.
Maggi Butterworth Will you be renting or purchasing?
Commander Oldroyd Renting.
Maggi Butterworth Well, you could rent the whole of our top floor.
Commander Oldroyd I can’t comment. Little London might want us over there. We can’t please everyone. It saves us over £100,000 per year which will save jobs. Woodhouse Lane is a done deal. Let’s have a walk round together.
Councillor Harper Crime has gone right down in Little London.
Inspector O’Brien Crime in this ward has gone down 36% in the last year.
Commander Oldroyd The presence of anyone who’s official-looking deters criminals. That’s why we try to get bin wagons to drive through your area.
Janet Bailey You said students need to feel safe. But students don’t live on campus, they live in the areas we live in, and that is where they need to feel safe or they won’t stay. This is one of the most burgled areas in the UK, though it is very hard to see that from the figures on your website now as it only shows figures for the past month not the year; some crimes no longer appear but are still being committed, so the figures are not comparable anyway.
Inspector O’Brien Would it help if I put all the monthly figures on for the past year ?
Janet Bailey It would really help, also figures for the previous year too then we could really see the comparison. I am also concerned that Belle Vue is a community resource and should stay within the community. You could for example build a smaller building on part of the land, funding it by the sale of the rest; once you have disposed of Belle Vue you have lost that option.
Commander Oldroyd Longer term, I’d like to see the police in community premises. But the Belle Vue Road depot is horrible. It’s falling down around us. It’s far too large, much of it is unusable, and it’s not fit for purpose.
Janet Bailey I hope you will make your decision based on policing needs and not financial needs.
Maggi Butterworth There are other sites too – for example the top floor of Swarthmore is currently free – that could be investigated.
Gerry Harper We need to explore all the options. Members sit on the Police Committee and need to be involved in this.
Commander Oldroyd The council has tons of empty property. I would be very happy to get into bed with them. If a better alternative comes up, I’ll take it.
Garance Rawinsky So you’re not totally tied to the university. The site next door to the Belle Vue Road depot is to be developed too. It may become a community centre or a supermarket. Would it be worth considering how you might fit in with what’s happening on that site?
Commander Oldroyd Our options are open. Sir Norman Bettison is very committed to community policing and wants us to look for co-locations. But the money from the sale of the Belle Vue Road depot will be used to offset the effects of the cuts.
Garance Rawinsky Surely the number of people in our area merits a police presence. Now we’ve more people living here, there’s more need now than there was before.
Commander Oldroyd You need to keep this in the front of your minds. We’re not reducing the service or PCSOs. Staff will be deployed in the same way. We’ve restricted some parking. You’ll see no difference to the service. You’ll still see the Starburst Effect.
Sue Thomas The horses?
Commander Oldroyd You’ll still see the horses.
Councillor Harper People in Little London say policing has never been so good.
Mercia Southon Co-location. Royal Park School would have put you right at the heart of the community.
Commander Oldroyd I hadn’t the time to consider it. I’ll consider it if it comes up in the next couple of years.
Inspector O’Brien I sent an email out quite early on to the three councillors.
Mercia Southon This is how we get presented with a fait accompli.
Councillor Harper About Royal Park School. There’s still the possibility of a community-based project.
Mercia Southon Your site is going to sell for a lot of money. Selling off the family silver is a very bad idea. A very bad idea. Once you’ve sold the family silver, you can never get it back again.
Commander Oldroyd There are pressures placed on us that are political. Sir Norman Bettison is committed to co-location. If there’s space here we could consider it. We could talk about a drop-in centre.
Mercia Southon This is too little, too late. You’ve presented us with a done deal.
Commander Oldroyd I’ve made a decision about how we can best police the area.
Mercia Southon If you worked with us, you would do far better. “Not fit for purpose.” That’s a phrase that gets used when people want to carry out architectural vandalism.
Commander Oldroyd The roof leaks.
Mercia Southon So put a bucket under it.
Howard Eaglestone I support what Mercia is saying. Royal Park is critical to our area. We need 24-hour direct access to a police station. This area has suffered enormously in recent years from under investment of resources. We need to reverse this if we are going to retain a viable community here. This is an opportunity to actually put something back into the community which should not be lost.
Chris Dickinson My team has a role to play in making the best use of co-location. You can feed your ideas back to us.
Sue Buckle I’m a bit vague about which organisation’s name is on the deeds of the Belle Vue Road depot.
Commander Oldroyd It’s the police’s name.
Sue Buckle So it’s a public resource that belongs to the area. Our perception is that the land will be flogged off for the best price.
Commander Oldroyd It’s not for sale yet. I presume it will get sold to the highest bidder.
Lady Highest bidder? That doesn’t sound quite right. For what? This is why we’re all here. We’re talking about our community being protected. It’s not about the needs of the university.
Janet Bailey Is it right that the money should be going into national funds?
Councillor Harper It would be good if something good could come out of this. I want Chris to arrange a meeting with asset management to discuss co-location with the police.
Commander Oldroyd The Royal Park School idea really interests me. We’re not married to Woodhouse Lane.
Garance Rawinsky About the sharing of duties. Enforcement Officers give parking tickets. I ask them about graffiti and they say that’s a matter for the police and nothing to do with them.
Chris Dickinson There are discussions ongoing about the passing on of information. There’s the possibility of using phones to take photographs of problems and then the passing on of the images to the people who can take action. I’d encourage people who see crime to report it.
Garance Rawinsky We’d like a park warden but know we’re not going to get one. Why can’t Enforcement Officers report problems to the police?
Sue Buckle It feels like the area is under constant attack.
David Hollingsworth We’ve been informed that you can’t police Hyde Park Unity Day. Will local police officers be going to the Olympics?
Commander Oldroyd Yes, but because of the ban on overtime, we’ll have more resources available (???)
Sue Buckle Are you saying that Unity Day can happen in its usual spot?
David Hollingsworth If it doesn’t happen, it’s going to make Leeds 6 into a ghost town this Summer.
During the course of the evening, Commander Oldroyd was also asked if the police had considered closing Weetwood instead of the Belle Vue Road depot. He replied that this isn’t an option as Weetwood is a proper police station. It was also put to him that his planning application states that the move will enable him to offer a better policing service to students, and that the consequence of this will be a worsened service to residents. When asked why the yearly overheads for the Belle Vue Road depot amount to £130,000 when the figure doesn’t include rent. Commander Oldroyd said the figure is made up of council tax and heating bills etc.