Police and crime commissioner Adam Simmonds has approved the sale of the Northamptonshire force headquarters to the education secretary- paving the way for the site to become a free school.
The elected commissioner (PCC) has today signed an executive order approving the sale of part of the Wootton Hall Park site to the Education Funding Agency.
Following public consultation and discussions with Chief Constable Simon Edens, Mr Simmonds says he has also agreed a provisional timeline for the force to leave the current headquarters.
The majority of staff and functions will leave Wootton Hall by September 2017, it has now been revealed, though original plans had been to make the move by June this year.
The force control room will remain in part of the site until 2020 under the agreement, rather than June 2017.
Wootton Park School will open on the site this September, a spokesman for Mr Simmonds’ office said, though it will be initially located in “temporary bespoke buildings outside of the force’s secure area.”
However the branch secretary for workers’ union Unison, Lyndsay Smith has criticised today’s move, claiming the union is now “exploring legal avenues” as to whether it could delay or halt the sale of Wootton Hall.
She also claims union members would prefer not to move and believes the school project is an “ill-conceived vanity project” made in the run-up to the PCC elections.
She said: “We feel that this latest announcement has given a false impression and want to highlight that an executive order is not legally binding.
“The site still has not been sold.
“Unison is disappointed that yet again, the PCC has taken the decision to communicate this in such a way, meaning that many members of staff will only hear about this update via the media.”
She added: “We are very concerned that it is so close to the new PCC elections and the PCC seems intent on going ahead with his vain and ill-conceived idea of selling Wootton Hall Park off for a school.
“There has been some movement on the speed at which the PCC wants to move us off the site.”
Under today’s proposed timescale, transport and fleet management functions will remain at Wootton Hall until 2018.
Critical IT infrastructure such as the communication mast will remain at Wootton Hall for a longer period.
Chief Constable Simon Edens has welcomed today’s move.
He said: “The purpose of Northamptonshire Police is to protect people from harm. In order to do this, we must have the right type of accommodation, in the right places.
“The Police and Crime Commissioner has responsibility for the whole of the police estate and any decisions regarding its future.
“I welcome his announcement confirming the development of the Northern Accommodation Hub, which includes the new custody facility, and a three-storey operational and administrative building.
“This is an exciting development for the force and it will, in my view, help us better deliver our purpose and serve our communities.
“It is vital that a move from Wootton Hall Park can be delivered without affecting public safety or putting operational and business continuity at risk; I also want to make sure the inevitable effects of such a move on our workforce are kept to a minimum.
“Plans to facilitate this move are still being developed and I will not get the chance to consider them until near the end of April. The PCC has agreed that these plans need my approval and I am confident that I will be able to give that approval at that time.”