BREAKING NEWS: Police and fire service will now stay at Northampton HQ after u-turn on sale
Northamptonshire's police force and fire services are set to remain at Wootton Hall after all - just a year after the previous crime commissioner announced plans to sell the site.
Stephen Mold has today announced that his office is in "advanced negotiations" with the Education Funding Agency (EFA) to revise the terms of the sale of part of Wootton Hall, in a move that would see the joint Northamptonshire Police and fire headquarters remain on the site.
The shock announcement comes as another blow to the legacy of the previous commissioner Adam Simmonds - who almost a year ago to the day announced the 600 staff there would be leaving Wootton Hall to make way for school buildings.
Mr Mold, said: “The issue around the sale of Northamptonshire Police’s current headquarters is one that I wish I hadn’t had to inherit on my first day of entering office and I am sorry it is a process that has taken so much time and effort to rectify.
"However, entering negotiations with the Education Funding Agency is a significant milestone in remedying this complex issue once and for all.
“I would like to place on record my thanks to the EFA and Wootton Park School for being so understanding and working with us to find a suitable solution for all parties around the future of the Wootton Hall site.
“When I entered office, Northamptonshire Police were without a designated headquarters, something Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary highlighted as being a threat to the future efficiency and effectiveness of the force.
"Any revised agreement with the EFA would enable the force to move forward in its planning to ensure it continues to protect people from harm."
At the time of Mr Simmonds' announcement last year, no alternative site for a headquarters had been identified, although the commissioner had formally approved the construction of two new buildings in the north of the county - the Northamptonshire Police Investigation Centre and Northern Accommodation Building, situated just off the A43 next to the A6003 between Kettering and Corby.
Construction has already begun on the project and Mr Mold says those new buildings would be retained in addition to a revamped Wooton Hall.
Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police Sion Edens, said Adam Simmonds had not given the force the option to stay at Wootton Hall.
He said: “Northamptonshire Police exists to protect people from harm and we need fit-for-purpose buildings, in the right place, to help us to do that better.
“The police and crime commissioner (PCC) has sought my views on our operational requirements and he has announced his intention to retain Wootton Hall, effectively reversing his predecessor’s decision to sell it. We would keep it as our headquarters.
“The PCC has promised the investment needed to develop the Wootton Hall site so that it fully meets our future needs. This option was never offered by the previous PCC and it potentially addresses one of the concerns I had about us staying here.
“In my discussions with the PCC, I have expressed the need for a fully funded plan to make the site fit for purpose and have offered to work with him and his office to develop that plan. This will allow us to work with other emergency services, notably the fire service, to establish a truly shared headquarters.
“I believe this will allow us all to better serve our communities and protect people from harm.”
Chief Fire Officer, Darren Dovey, said: “Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service welcomes the PCC’s announcement to remain on the site at Wootton hall as it provides clarity and stability for both police and fire staff currently working there and provides the opportunity in the future to develop the site in a way to further maximise the collaboration opportunities between our two services.”