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Surrey Police Considering Staying Put in Guildford – Talk of Co-location with Councils

Published on: 15 Sep, 2021
Updated on: 17 Sep, 2021

Mount Browne Surrey Police HQ since 1949

By Julie Armstrong, local democracy reporter

and Martin Giles

Surrey Police’s new headquarters may not move from Guildford to Leatherhead after all and Guildford and Waverley borough councils could co-locate with the police HQ, allowing the councils to sell existing sites and cut costs.

Senior police officers are reviewing their decision because of shortcomings identified with the proposed new location at Leatherhead.

Mount Browne in Artington, Guildford, Surrey Police’s HQ since 1949, was said to be “inefficient” and “not fit for purpose”, while Leatherhead was considered more central with good transport links.

But now the police say the Leatherhead site is in a residential area which is not suitable for keeping covert officers anonymous, or for housing the force’s “cutting-edge” dog school.

Deputy Chief Constable Nev Kemp, speaking to the police and crime panel today (September 15), said the cost and impact of these two issues were “not fully known” when the “Building the Future” programme began five years ago.

Surrey Police bought the 10 acre Leatherhead site at Cleeve Road for £20.5million in 2018, but DCC Kemp said it was “far from being a white elephant” as the land had “almost certainly increased in value since we bought it”.

One option being considered in June was to look for an alternative site in Surrey, but that was discounted on deciding there were no other suitable sites.

So the remaining options are to either go ahead with Leatherhead or stay at Mount Browne and redevelop it. Currently, Surrey police say it is “tremendously expensive to maintain” and its control room is split into two.

But DCC Kemp added in the panel meeting: “The police dog school has been run and owned by Surrey for 70 years. It’s a fantastic asset that we’ve got.

“We have officers that travel to us from all over the world and pay for Surrey trainers to train them and their dogs in what is a very difficult course.”

He said it had a superb reputation and was fully booked, even training dogs to detect SIM cards in a jar of coins.

The Leatherhead location, in a residential area, would not be ideal, DCC Kemp said: “because dogs bark”.

In addition, he said: “Some of the work we do is covert and that means officers and vehicles that are accessing the site need to do so without being easily spotted by organised crime groups.”

DCC Kemp also revealed there had been conversations with Guildford and Waverley councils about whether they want to colocate with Surrey Police. A senior GBC source commented: “There have been no substantive talks but we will keep an open mind as there may be advantages to all parties worth exploring.”

Police and crime panel member Councillor Mick Gillman, of Tandridge District Council, said: “To keep Mount Browne operational whilst going through a major refurbishment will give you tremendous challenges, and it’s also likely that the cost will be significantly higher as things will be done in phases.”

Maureen Cherry, Building the Future programme director, said three years ago the building was at capacity but new ways of working because of Covid meant it was now less occupied.

How will this affect plans to sell off stations?

The business plan involves selling off some police buildings, including Woking and Reigate stations. Neighbourhood policing in Woking moved to the council offices a few years ago, and the intention is still to sell off the police station there, but not until the new HQ is open.

But it looks like Reigate station could be retained if the Leatherhead plan was abandoned.

DCC Kemp said: “If the decision was that we were to remain at Mount Browne, the likelihood is I would think that we’d retain Reigate, but I can’t say 100 per cent at the moment.”

He did say there would be “no reduction at all in any neighbourhood policing provision”.

A decision on the new headquarters could be made in November.

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test One Response to Surrey Police Considering Staying Put in Guildford – Talk of Co-location with Councils

  1. Martin Elliott Reply

    September 16, 2021 at 10:14 pm

    Given the various verified stories about Councils commercial property portfolios and trading, I wonder what there is to DCC Kemp’s assertion that land in Leatherhead has increased in value?

    Now all capital programmes are up in the air again. Is this based on a 10 year investment plan of the the few years disruption of COVID?

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