Commissioner urged to consider alternative options to school on police HQ site in Northampton

Northamptonshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds
Northamptonshire's Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds
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Concerns have been expressed by members of Northamptonshire’s Police and Crime Panel about plans to build a school on the site of the force’s headquarters in Northampton.

During a meeting at County Hall on Tuesday, Adam Simmonds, the county’s police and crime commissioner, was grilled about his proposal to sell the Wootton Hall site to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) to allow a new school to be built.

South Northants Councillor Lizzy Bowen said it could be more financially lucrative for the Wootton Hall land to be sold to a property developer to build houses.

She said: “I am not sure enough due diligence has been done on what else the land could be used for apart from a school.”

Councillor Danielle Stone, who is the opposition leader on the borough council, said she thought the decision on the sale of the land should be deferred until all other options were considered.

Councillor Mary Butcher (Lab, Corby) said she thought the land could be used to build a new nursing home.

She said: “We are desperate for nursing home accommodation in the area. We want to get best value for money for the land.

“I feel uncomfortable about this, the plan seems to be blinkered.”

However, the recommendations by the three councillors were not agreed by the whole panel so will not be officially sent to the police and crime commissioner.

In response to their concerns, Mr Simmonds said a great deal of work had gone into the estates strategy which would save the force £40 million in the next five years.

Mr Simmonds, who said he would like to make a decision on the future of Wootton Hall this month, said he had not explored the possibility of a care home but did not believe “the market” was there for that option at the moment.

He said: “I would like the building to be something for the community for as long as possible.

“The site will be sold off and will raise millions for the police. It will not be sold off on the cheap. It will be proportionate, whatever the land is worth we will get.”

During the meeting, the police and crime panel also unanimously agreed to approve his budget, which includes a plan to raise the policing proportion of council tax by £4 a year in 2016/17.