ONE of the county’s biggest towns will hopefully soon have a police station again, after the go ahead was given to award a contract for a new £3.5m ‘hub’.
Abergavenny has been without a manned ’cop shop’ since the start of 2019, when the previous town centre building in Tudor Street was sold off to be redeveloped as retirement flats.
The ‘efficiency’ move by Gwent Police was criticised by some at the time, with no firm plans for a replacement building, only an outline proposal to share a new hub with the fire station.
It meant that the nearest fully manned station was Cwmbran 15 miles away, a similar distance from Abergavenny to Monmouth Police Station, which is open weekdays.
The town currently has a daytime “Station Enquiry Officer” based weekdays in the county council’s town hall-based One Stop Shop.
And newly re-elected Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner Jeff Cuthbert said this week that he hopes the new operations base will be up and running within two years.
A recent report to the PCC’s Office by its resources officer said that not having a “permanent operational policing base in Abergavenny” would “fail to deliver effective policing services”. And more than two years on from the closure, Willmott Dixon has now been appointed as the main construction contractor for the project, following an agreement to build an ‘Abergavenny Hub’ last November.
The PCC’s Office is still to reveal where the new ‘hub’ will be built, though, after plans for a shared arrangement at the town fire station reportedly fell through, although a “plot of land has been identified”.
Fresh from election victory, Mr Cuthbert said on Monday: “We remain committed to developing a permanent, purpose-built base for Gwent Police in Abergavenny and have appointed a lead contractor to help us deliver this over the next two years.
“Our plan is to develop a base with excellent access to the town and surrounding areas that provides sufficient space for Gwent Police’s response and neighbourhood teams, and has flexibility for the future.
“In the meantime, Gwent Police’s presence at the One Stop Shop in the centre of town continues to support easy face-to-face access to policing services, and teams ensure that residents retain their local police support.”
Abergavenny town mayor Cllr Tony Konieczny welcomed the news, telling the Chronicle: “We are delighted that work is finally underway on a new police station in Abergavenny with the news that a main contractor has been appointed.
“We look forward to receiving more details on design and timescales in the near future.”
The PCC Office report on the appointment of the contractor said: “Gwent Police’s mission is to protect and reassure communities and not having a permanent operational policing base in Abergavenny will have a negative impact on the community and fail to deliver effective policing services.
“A new operational policing base in Abergavenny (to complement the town centre provision), is needed as soon as possible and awarding the contract using the direct award framework is the most efficient, effective and compliant way to engage with the contractor and complete the project.”
It continued: “It is not possible to confirm the exact contract value at this time, as the contractor will need to complete the feasibility study which will then need to be agreed by the project team.
“However, the estimated budget for this project of £3.5m has been incorporated within the Capital Programme element of the Medium-Term Financial Projections.”
The decision to close the old station sparked anger among some residents of the 12,500-population town, who feared its closure meant the end of manned station policing here.
It came just two years after the axe had fallen on the Abergavenny Magistrates’ Court next door, only five years after the courts had been given a £500,000 revamp by the Ministry of Justice.
The 1960s-built justice complex was sold following police budget cuts after a developer made an offer in 2017, with a deal for the station to remain open there for 18 months while alternative arrangements were made.
However, by the time they vacated the site at the start of 2019, and plans for 47 retirement flats were given the go ahead, no alternative operational base had been arranged in the town.
Residents commented on social media about plans for the new ‘hub’, one woman posting: “They should have sorted this out before knocking down the old one.”
One man replied: “You are absolutely correct, but I think that the object was to get rid a police station for Abergavenny full stop.
“If they had wanted to have a police station in the town they could have kept the one in Tudor St, there was nothing wrong with the building…
“Abergavenny needs a properly manned police station.”
*This story first appeared in print on the front of the Abergavenny Chronicle on Wednesday, May 12.*