School is ‘preferred option’ to replace Northampton’s police headquarters

Wootton Hall
Wootton Hall

Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds has confirmed that Northamptonshire Police’s headquarters are being earmarked as a possible site for a free school

Speaking at the Police and Crime Panel meeting on Thursday, Mr Simmonds stated that he was pressing ahead with the sale of the ageing Wootton Hall site, which houses around 200 police staff, and that his preferred option to replace the premises would be a school.

Addressing the panel he said: “I felt for a number of reasons that the building did not reflect the 21st Century police force I wanted to create.

“The building had created a culture that I wanted to change.”

He went on to say: “In discussions with a lot of people, not to mention several head teachers, I felt that if we were going to change a generation and lift a generation out of crime, we had to start pretty young and we had to start in a school.

“I thought I would propose the idea of setting up a school.”

A trust has been set up to oversee the project of building a free school on the site.

Trustees include Northampton South MP Brian Binley and former education chief of Northamptonshire County Council Andrew Sortwell.

But during a public speaking section of today’s meeting, retired policeman Justin Brown, questioned the commissioner’s relationship with those two members.

In particular, he said that Mr Simmonds and Sortwell worked together at Northamptonshire County Council and classed each other as acquaintances on the business networking site LinkedIn.

He suggested that Mr Simmonds’ associates would stand to profit from being part of the trust setting up the school.

Northampton man Mr Brown, who runs a website challenging the need for a commissioner in the town, said: “I ask that the plans to sell Wootton Hall are shelved and that an independent investigation is conducted into Adam Simmonds with the Independent Police Complaints Commision.”

But Mr Simmonds, speaking after the meeting, refuted any claims that his associates would be “profiting” from any sale of Wootton Hall. He added that Mr Binley and Mr Sortwell were established as trustees because they were the best for the job.

He did not deny that he knew both men and did not deny he had encouraged their efforts to set up a trust.

He said: “No friends of mine are going to profit from anything.

“There’s no profit here; anyone can set up as a trust, they own no assets in this situation. Technically the police and crime commissioner owns the land and any sale at market price would be returned to public funds.

“These are a credible group of people to put the idea of a school forward.”

He added: “The insinuation I find frustrating, just because you know the people.”