A MULTI-MILLION pound investment is planned for Dorset’s ageing police buildings – and it could see some sold off.

Police chiefs have unveiled their plans, saying 'make do and mend is no longer an option'.

The changes are also expected to see more police officers based in the communities they serve, with some not based at police stations.

In a joint statement, the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner and Chief Constable say investment in the force buildings is 'long overdue'.

It comes after plans for a new three-storey office building for the Winfrith HQ site were revealed.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Winfrith Police Hq Proposed New Building 1Winfrith Police Hq Proposed New Building 1

The 60-year-old headquarters currently cost more to maintain than it would do to knock down and replace with a more energy efficient and sustainable building.

In approving the substantial investment to modernise the police estate, Dorset PCC David Sidwick, says he has ensured police officers will be better connected to communities and more visible to the public.

A joint ‘Estates Futures’ programme is set to deliver a range of benefits to communities over several years, and ensure that police teams are located in the right places, the joint statement says.

It will also hand officers and staff necessary equipment and technology to maximise their time out in communities.

Part of the programme will be a full estates review that works with local communities to identify opportunities to increase face-to-face engagement through front counters, which may be flexibly located in more populated areas not necessarily within police stations.

A range of improvements will be made in local police stations such as better technology, more lockers and flexible working spaces to help optimise the time in stations each shift, plus respite areas to help officers deal with traumatic incidents.

The statement says that many of the current police buildings are in use far beyond their planned lifespan.

Other buildings that are no longer cost effective will be sold, and the proceeds used to modernise and invest in new facilities, including jointly with emergency services and council partners, where possible.

Mr Sidwick said: “The Estates Futures Programme will secure and future proof the Dorset Police estate for another 30 years, making every penny count and helping to deliver a better service to Dorset communities.

“We must modernise and invest in the Dorset estate due to the shockingly poor condition of some of the current buildings and the ongoing maintenance costs caused by years of austerity.

"‘Make do and mend’ is no longer a viable option as it will cost more to keep the current headquarters building fit for occupation than it will to replace it with another building.

“Some of our other buildings are not well suited to the current needs and expectations of the public and in need of urgent investment. They are also not best suited to help police officers maximise their time out in communities.

“It is therefore vital we modernise our police estate by providing new buildings which will be fit for modern policing. We know that sub-standard buildings and equipment can lead to wasted time and inefficiency, and by offering up-to-date technology and facilities the force will improve communication to residents both in person and online, allowing them more time to engage directly and ensure all victims and communities are supported and have a voice.

“The public have repeatedly told me that they want to feel more connected to their police and that visibility is something that they wish to improve. These improvements, along with the ongoing recruitment of extra officers and better mobile technology will enable Dorset Police to better meet those expectations.”

Mr Sidwick said that staff welfare is also a vital consideration with flexible working options meaning officers will be able to adopt more digital ways of working.

Chief Constable Scott Chilton said: “We have listened to local communities and I am delighted that this investment from the Police and Crime Commissioner will enable us to build on our earlier commitment to ensure a local approach to policing.  Building trust and confidence with our local communities is vital in helping us to cut crime and antisocial behaviour, keep people safe and put victims and communities first.”