THE PSNI plans to stop using Dromore Police Station by the end of March next year, despite the fact that the building is expected to remain in police ownership for at least two years beyond that.
Meanwhile, it is understood police and Banbridge District Council are engaged in early negotiations about alternative uses for the building, including the possibility of a community facility operating a police “drop-in centre”.
In confirming that the Dromore station was scheduled to be “operationally closed” by the end of this financial year, Area Commander, Chief Inspector Ken Mawhinney said the decision was based solely on the utilisation of the building.
It was in early May this year that The Leader reported a stay of execution for Dromore Police Station, one of 34 originally earmarked for closure and among four to win an at least temporary reprieve when the Policing Board refused to immediately endorse police plans.
Determined to press ahead with closure, police agreed at the time to undertake “further engagement” with the community, with a view, they said, to a closure date in the current Comprehensive Spending Review period, which ends on April 1, 2015; campaigners settled in for an anticipated three-year battle to secure a long-term future for the base.
But now, in a move akin to that which preceded the final closure of the Dromara station, police chiefs are signalling an intention to abandon the Dromore base ahead of any final disposal.
Mr. Mawhinney insisted police would continue to provide Dromore with a comprehensive policing service.
“I would like to take this opportunity,” he said, “to re-emphasise that the consultation, and subsequent decision to close Dromore Police Station, was based solely around the utilisation of the police building.
“Local police provide a personal, professional and protective service to the community in Dromore and will continue to do so.
“It is envisaged that Dromore Police Station will be operationally closed by the end of this financial year, March 2013. We will continue to work with local residents, businesses and stakeholders and provide the comprehensive policing service the community expect.”
Lagan Valley MLA and Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said those involved in discussing possible alternatives for the Dromore station hoped to head off a complete alienation from the PSNI.
“There are currently early stage negotiations taking place between the Police and Banbridge District Council in relation to alternative uses for Dromore Police Station,” he said.
“Options are being discussed regarding a possible community facility which would facilitate a drop-in centre for the PSNI for those who wish to raise policing issues.
“These discussions are in the early stages and it is hoped that a community-centred approach will be present in order to reduce complete alienation from the PSNI.
“The much sought-after reprieve for the police station will enable more thorough planning to take place to maintain as best as possible a policing facility for the general public to use.
“I will continue to pursue this matter as chair of the finance committee of the Policing Board but it will inevitably take considerable planning before such positive uses of police stations such as Dromore are implemented.”