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Monday, April 22, 2024

New ‘Eastern Base’ confirmed for police

The City of London committee was told the police "wish to be excellent neighbours" to those living in the estate

A new ‘Eastern Base’ for the City of London Police has been approved, with the force to take on space over several floors in the Middlesex Street Estate. The City of London Corporation’s Planning Applications Sub-Committee unanimously backed the proposal for the base, which will not act as a front desk for the force, but will instead be available for officers to report to before and after being out on jobs.

Documents published ahead of the committee meeting held earlier this week indicated there is a ‘significant’ demand for policing in the east of the City. This is expected to be reinforced by the planned closure of Bishopsgate Police Station, due to shut(down) once the new HQ in Salisbury Square opens in 2026.

Under the approved plans, the force will turn six vacated shops on Gravel Lane into offices, and will adopt a number of car parking spaces currently reserved for residents. There is however expected to remain more than enough for those living on the estate. A range of improvements are included in the proposal, such as upgrades to the residents’ parking area, works to the podium in the centre of Middlesex Street Estate, and a new gym.

Julia Mason Image: LDRS

When the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) visited the site, the residents were varied in their responses to the plans. One, who did not wish to be named, said they were not overly concerned about the loss of shops or the noise. Another, Julia Mason, 57, said she did worry about the proposed base, including the potential impact on her and her family’s quality of life.

“I just wished it wasn’t going to happen, to be honest,” she said. “We are not even going to be able to use it as a police station. [We’ve] been here a long time, and it would be nice to have a bit of peace and just enjoy it.”

At the committee meeting, Roger Way, Chair of the Middlesex Street Residents’ Association, told members the new base would have a detrimental impact on those living in the estate, and that there remain ‘fundamental disputes’ about the need for and practicality of the proposal.

He said: “Today you are asked to approve an application which we predict will further reduce residential and public amenities, sterilise an active street, and further damage our quality of life – a prediction shared by more than 96% of the individuals who recorded their objections to this application.”

He made a request to add a condition to the application to ensure the podium remains accessible to all, due to concerns that raising it, as mentioned in the plans, would make it unusable for certain people.

Cllr Brendan Barns Image: City Of London Council

“Raising it and having ramps and step access around means that for example toddlers who have a little trike that they ride around on at the moment, they won’t be able to do a complete circuit of the podium without going down steps or up steps, and therefore parents will be more concerned about the safety of their children.”

Cllr Brendan Barns later asked Peter Smith, representing the firm behind the designs, RSP Architects, directly about the accessibility of the podium. Mr Smith assured members the plans have been reviewed by the Corporation’s accessibility officer, and that the podium involves shallow ramps rather than steps.

Speaking in support of the application, Deputy James Thomson, Chair of the City of London Police Authority Board, said: “Put simply, the current police buildings are beyond end of life, and are not fit for purpose.”

James Thomson Image: James Thomosn

“The City Police wish to be excellent neighbours and very much part of the community in every respect,” he later added.

Among the considerations raised by members was that of ongoing maintenance of the site. Deputy Marianne Fredericks in particular spoke of the need for a management plan, a point noted by the applicant during the meeting.

“You really do have to put a management plan in place to ensure, working with the residents, working with the corporation officers, that you have a blueprint in place so everyone knows exactly what they need to do speedily,” she said.

Shravan Joshi Image: City of London Council

When put to a vote, members unanimously backed the plans. Following the meeting, Chairman of the City of London Corporation Planning and Transportation Committee, Shravan Joshi, said the decision “ensures that a strong police presence will remain across the City, as well as providing a range of new facilities for local residents”, adding: “The quality of engagement by the applicant with the local community was exemplary and was applauded by members of the Committee.

“The City of London Police are a vital component of the Square Mile, ensuring the hundreds of thousands of people who work and live here, as well as the visitors and tourists who come to experience our unparalleled culture and heritage, feel safe and secure.”

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