Financial challenges will ‘not be allowed to weaken’ the district’s policing ability, stresses chief inspector

JPCT S12370044X Horsham. Police Station -photo by Steve Cobb
JPCT S12370044X Horsham. Police Station -photo by Steve Cobb

Future locations of the district’s new police stations are already being discussed after the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) announced plans to close the Horsham, Steyning and Pulborough buildings.

Katy Bourne wants to shut these sites along with 27 others across the county and replace them with community hubs as part of cost-cutting measures.

But this week, in an exclusive interview with the County Times, Chief Inspector Howard Hodges, Horsham district commander, has stressed that financial challenges faced by the force will ‘not be allowed to 
weaken’ Horsham’s policing ability.

He backs the PCC’s plan, which will see officers working out of private or public buildings in Horsham town centre and the surrounding villages.

The CI did not rule out having his team stationed at libraries or in high street shops.

“Clearly this is financially driven but actually it’s common sense because a lot of our buildings really aren’t fit for purpose,” he explained.

“This building [Horsham police station] has seen better days. For me the it’s not in a brilliant location because what we don’t have here is a passing foot-flow.”

His vision is to have stations for 24/7 response teams and vehicles based in Horsham, Steyning and Pulborough where access to a main road is good.

He hopes the new Horsham response will be located off the A24.

Speaking of Steyning police station, which has a wealth of history spanning back to the 18th century, he said: “There’s certainly a lot of history there and it’s a lovely building, but it isn’t fit for modern policing need and in terms of location it is set slightly back from the main heart of Steyning.”

The situation is similar for Pulborough police station.

“It’s a very large building but over the years the styling of Horsham policing has changed and we now have very few officers working from Pulborough.”

In addition to these new response stations CI Hodges is in talks with Horsham District Council and other agencies to have a community hub based in the town and villages.

These will have the same police branding and front office set-up.

Residents will still be able to report crime as they can now at their local police station.

“We fully accept that a lot of people want to do more online but there is still a significant number of people for whom coming in and seeing a member of staff and 
reporting is important,” he continued.

“The aim will be to find somewhere that is more accessible to people.

“We’re actively exploring with a range of other partnerships and assessing where the synergy can be.”

He said the opportunities to co-locate with other services presents an ‘economy of scale’ which could benefit partnerships that are also presented with financial difficulties.

The challenge CI Hodges faces is how to offer maximum police visibility in a district which has more than 200sq miles of ground to cover.

But Horsham police should soon be reaping the benefits of a huge recruitment drive which saw thousands apply to Sussex Police for the 80 PC roles.

The CI added: “My role as commander here is to make sure we deliver effective overall policing and that none of the challenges that take place in the next five years will be allowed to weaken our ability to deliver that and will only increase our ties within the local community and access to it.” He added no stations will close until alternative buildings have been found - and this could take up to five years.