When Marlborough's police station closes where will police officers 'touchdown' in the town?
The future of policing in Marlborough exercised town councillors at Monday's meeting of the Full Council (September 4). They were especially doubtful about where the so-called 'touchdown point' that will replace - so to speak - the police station is likely to be located.
First, councillors were dismayed at the closure of the police station and the way it has been decided and announced. Councillor Bryan Castle: "I am sad this is being done unilaterally without any consultation with the community. We should put in a protest that we haven't been consulted and deplore the action."
The Deputy Mayor, Councillor Lisa Farrell, agreed fearing criminals are already taking advantage of the lack of on-site policing in the town: "Marlborough is getting bigger and bigger and people know the police are not around."
Secondly, councillors were told that the police had asked for talks about siting the 'touchdown point' in the new Marlborough Community and Youth Centre. Councillors were divided about the wisdom of this: some said it would deter young people coming to youth clubs at the Centre, another councillor thought it would deter illegal and antisocial behaviour that sometimes occurs near the Centre.
Councillor Farrell, who has worked with young people when the building was a 'youth centre', pointed out that having police in the Centre would simply move misbehaving youths elsewhere in the town.
But the main opposition to this idea was that the 'touchdown point' - and councillors were naturally unsure what a 'touchdown point' actually is - should be as close to the centre of town as possible. They thought the Marlborough Community and Youth Centre was much too far from the High Street. Councillor Noel Barrett-Morton told the meeting that two police officers had told him they wanted the 'touchdown point' to be at the Fire Station in The Parade.
It was suggested that the 'touchdown point' would be an office were officers dropped in occasionally to do paperwork. As Councillor Mark Cooper said: "It needs to be a place where members of the public can go knowing the exact time they can speak to a policeman."
Councillors agreed to meet with the police to discuss possible locations for the 'touchdown point'. The police 'touchdown point' would, of course, provide a firm income towards the not inconsiderable costs to the town council of running the Marlborough Community and Youth Centre. No member of Wiltshire Police was present at the meeting to report to councillors.
Meanwhile the asbestos has been successfully removed from the Marlborough Community and Youth Centre building and work has now begun on refurbishment and ree-decoration. The aim is to complete the internal works by October 9 and the external works two weeks later.
How the capital costs will be met of getting the building in good shape and properly equipped and furnished remains a problem. Application for grants to complete the work on the Community and Youth Centre are being made.
The Police and Crime Commissioner will not be providing the £9,000 for CCTV and alarms from his community fund. He says he had £190,000 worth of applications for a fund with a budget of only £40,000.
An application to the Big Lottery Awards for All scheme has gone in for hardwearing carpets - and the CCTV/alarm costs have now been added to this application. Another source of funding may be the Tesco bags Awards scheme.
However, it is thought that with the current estimate of costs for work on the building and to equip and furnish it plus a twenty per cent contingency (on the high side as the full state of the building is not yet clear), a fund raising effort will be needed.
There will be an Open Day at the Centre on Sunday, September 24 - watch this space for details.