ALL but one Croydon police station will close to the public – or face significantly reduced hours – despite senior officers saying the plan had "gone too far".
South Norwood, Norbury and Kenley will shut as part of the mayor's Police and Crime Plan which was finalised on Monday after an eight-week consultation. The front counter at Purley will also be scrapped and replaced with public 'contact points' at five Safer Neighbourhood Team (SNT) bases across the borough, plus one in Lambeth.
Addington Police Station will not close but its opening times will reduce from 55 hours a week to just three. The Met's £17.3 million custody suite in Windmill Road will become a formal front counter – the only one in the north of the borough.
Croydon North MP Steve Reed described the plan as "deeply damaging" but Steve O'Connell, Croydon's London Assembly member, said the it was a "good thing for the borough" because it promises extra police officers.
The Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) announced the closures in January, in an attempt to meet a £500 million cut in police funding by 2014/15. The proposals met with public and political concern, and it appeared likely that significant concessions would be made after high-profile police officers sought to distance themselves from the closures.
Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe called for a "sensible" solution in which Croydon would keep "two or three" stations. Then, temporary borough commander Richard Wood said he was "keen to explore the option" of having a base in one of the wards in the north.
Speaking at a public meeting in Croydon during the consultation process, Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne said the proposed closures had "gone too far".
Afterwards, Chief Superintendent Wood said that "everyone accepts that one (station) is not enough" and he was "fully confident" the plan would be adjusted.
Mr Byrne and Sir Bernard declined the Advertiser's request for interviews this week, but a Met spokesperson said the plan had been amended in recognition that closing all but one station was "not suitable".
Chief Supt Wood said: "I don't think I or any other senior officer tried to distance themselves from the plan. There was genuine consultation and on the result of the feedback, changes have been made."
Figures show an average of 10.9 crimes are reported at Croydon's front counters every day.
There was a 51 per cent reduction in offences reported at police stations between 2006 and 2012.
Traditional front desks in stations will be replaced by locations for "non-urgent face-to-face contact" at Norbury, Thornton Heath, New Addington, Purley and Addington safer neighbourhood bases, which will be open to the public for just three hours a week.
Gipsy Hill Police Station, staffed by officers from Lambeth, will be available to residents in the Upper Norwood area.
The report added that "if this borough feels further contact points are required to meet local demand, MOPAC/MPS (the Met) are prepared to consider low cost options to achieve this".
Simon Hoar, cabinet member for crime and public protection, said: "At the end of the day, the police had to save money and it's better to do that through underused buildings rather than officers."
As part of the proposals, Croydon will be allocated 117 extra police officers - returning the borough to the resources it had two years ago.
Mr O'Connell, who previously said he would do everything in his power to save Kenley police station, said: "This plan is a good thing for the borough – no matter what some might say.
"I know this won't be the headline but people I talk to care about numbers, not bricks and mortar."
Following the riots, an independent panel recommended police open a base in London Road, West Croydon.
The policing plan makes no firm promises to fulfil this but said the council had suggested six locations for public contact points which the MOPAC will now explore, including "options in the West Croydon/London Road area".
However, Chief Supt Wood said there are "no plans on the table" at the current time.
Mr O'Connell refused to reveal whether he knew about plans to close police stations in Croydon before last May's London Assembly elections. Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne has already admitted the Met had been planning to close all but one base before the end of 2011. When asked how long he had known, Mr O'Connell, Assembly member for Croydon and Sutton, said the question was 'irrelevant' and when pressed for an answer he hung up the phone. Paul Smith, Labour's shadow cabinet member for crime and public protection, said: "Before the election Steve made strong public statements about keeping Kenley Police Station open but, despite his influential position, he is now complicit in its closure. "So yes, he should answer the question. It's not irrelevant. Voters deserve to know." The future of policing in Croydon:
- 24/7 front counter in Croydon Police Station, Park Lane
- Standard front counter in Windmill Road Custody Centre, Windmill Road
- Contact points, open Wednesday – Thursday between 7-8pm and Saturday 3-3pm, at the following: Norbury Safer Neighbourhoods Team (SNT) Base, 1342-1344 London Road; Thornton Heath SNT Base, 2 Parchmore Road, Thornton Heath; New Addington SNT Base, 42 Central Parade, New Addington; Addington Police Station; Gipsy Hill Police Station (in Lambeth)
- Deployment bases (where SNT, borough tasking and emergency response start and end tours of duty) at Croydon, Gipsy Hill and Addington Police station
- Various SNT bases (not open to public and only occupied when officers not on patrol): Redlands Centre, Coulsdon; Charity House, 311 Lower Addiscombe Road; 222 Addington Road, Selsdon; 293 Wickham Road; 19 Central Hill, Crystal Palace, Park Street, Croydon