Yorkshire’s largest police force is to sell three of its police stations and four other buildings after revealing that several are rarely used by its officers.
West Yorkshire Police is planning to sell off its stations at Keighley, Bingley and Killingbeck in Leeds, as well as smaller ‘section boxes’ at Fartown, Milnsbridge and Moldgreen in Kirklees district and Wyke in Bradford district.
The force - which has lost 1,400 employees since 2010, says the move will save money and reduce the number of buildings it owns which are empty or “largely unused”.
But a councillor in one of the affected areas says he is worried about the impact the closure will have on response times.
Senior officials say the use of modern technology, with frontline officers able to do their work on new tablets rather than from police stations, means it no longer makes sense to keep some buildings open.
Deputy Chief Constable John Robins said: “Much of our plans are about having smaller, newer and more cost effective police stations in a similar location, albeit some will not be replaced where very few officers and staff work from them.
It all forms part of a wider ongoing strategy to reduce the number of properties across the organisation, which have either been left empty, are largely underused or are very expensive to run.John Robins, West Yorkshire Police
“The number of officers and staff working in these areas is not changing. Indeed, we are committed to increasing the numbers of Neighbourhood Police officers and PCSOs over the next year. Saving money on estates helps us do that.
“It all forms part of a wider ongoing strategy to reduce the number of properties across the organisation, which have either been left empty, are largely underused or are very expensive to run.
“Since 2010, due to Government austerity measures, the size of our workforce has decreased and we need to reduce our costs. We are now operating with around 1,400 fewer people.
“Alongside all this, newly built state-of-the-art buildings across the force have given us greater capacity and are specifically designed with 21st century policing in mind.
“Response times will not change as a result of these plans and the existing operational deployment centres, which are not changing, will ensure we continue to police all areas effectively.”
Keighley police station, also known as Airedale House, is a former divisional HQ and has a large custody complex which is no longer used.
The force says it will be sold once alternative arrangements have found for the neighbourhood policing team and helpdesk facility, which could be moved closer to the town centre.
Bingley police station has not been used by officers since 2015 and has not been open to the public for “a number of years”.
West Yorkshire Police says it would not make “financial or practical sense” to keep it open and that officers covering Bingley can access facilities at the market town’s fire station.
The force says Killingbeck police station is “now vastly under-occupied” and that its neighbourhood policing team and response team will move to Killingbeck fire station later this year.
The helpdesk facility has been earmarked for closure, as it is claimed alternative means of contacting police such as the 101 number and live web chats make the service unnecessary.
Brian Selby, a Labour councillor in the Killingbeck and Seacroft ward, said he was concerned about what the closure of the station would mean for response times to incidents in east Leeds.
He said: “I think people will be concerned about it, there has been very little consultation. I am concerned there will be a loss of service, notwithstanding the proposals they are making.
“This will be an issue not just for Killingbeck and Seacroft wards, but the nearby wards such as Cross Gates and Whinmoor and Gipton and Harehills.”
The section boxes, which are satellite bases for officers to stop off at, are the last to be used by the force.
Earlier this week, The Yorkshire Post revealed that three modern West Yorkshire Police buildings financed using the Private Finance Initiative are costing taxpayers £12.1m a year.