COMMUNITY leaders have welcomed plans for a new multi-million pound police station in the centre of Keighley.

Councillors and business leaders this week heralded the initiative as a major boost for the town and its fight against crime.

But one Craven-ward Bradford Council member questioned the spending and claimed the money would be better spent on putting more officers on the beat.

Last week we revealed that the new police station is to be built on the site of the just-demolished former college premises in Cavendish Street.

Bradford Council has reached an agreement to sell the site to West Yorkshire Police.

And subject to the necessary planning permissions and barring any delays, it is hoped the new police station will open in the spring of 2021.

The announcement ended two years of uncertainty and anxiety over the future presence of a police base in the town, since the force revealed it was selling the current Airedale House site in Royd Ings Avenue.

Further details have been revealed about the new station.

It is likely to be built over two or three storeys and will comprise mainly office and locker accommodation for deployment activity locally.

The building will house the Neighbourhood Policing Team, response teams and a public helpdesk, where opening hours will mirror those currently in place at Airedale House.

Once more-detailed plans are put forward, the public will have the chance to comment.

Town mayor Councillor Peter Corkindale, a retired police officer, welcomes the initiative.

He says the police station, which was situated in North Street prior to the present site opening in 2005, should never have been relocated in the first place.

“Most people felt it was a retrograde step when it was moved to Airedale House,” he added.

“We need a police station in the town centre, that’s where it should be.

“It’s difficult to get to the existing building unless you have a car, and it’s especially inaccessible for elderly people.

“With it back in the town centre, it will be a lot easier for everyone – particularly those who don’t drive or are less able – to call in.”

Councillor Abid Hussain, chairman of Keighley Area Committee, describes the project as “a great opportunity” for the town.

“The police station is a key part of the community and for the protection of it,” he said.

“So many people have complained that where it’s situated at the moment just isn’t the right site for it.

“Under this plan, it will be at the heart of the town centre. The location is ideal. People will be able to access it easily if they want to report things.

“The new building is a great opportunity for Keighley.

“There is all-round support and enthusiasm for the scheme from Bradford Council, the police, the Police and Crime Commissioner and MP and hopefully that will help drive it forward smoothly.”

Fellow Keighley Central councillor, Khadim Hussain, adds his backing.

“It’s good news and very welcome,” he said.

“There has been a lot of uncertainty over the future of the police station since it was announced that Airedale House was being sold.

“Having the police station in the centre of town will provide reassurance and help the public feel safer, as well as improving accessibility.

“It’s a good initiative and I hope it comes to fruition soon.”

Councillor Zafar Ali, who also represents the Central ward, said many people – including himself ­— had been pressing for years for the police base to be relocated back to the town centre.

“The campaign has very much been a combined effort – which our former MP Kris Hopkins was also a part of – and I welcome the result,” he added.

“Everyone involved should be congratulated.

“We’ve said for a long time that the current police station is not in the right place, it’s too far out of town. It’s a pity they moved in the first place and I don’t know why they did, but that is now in the past and we need to look forward.

“This news is good for Keighley.

“We will have a facility that is more accessible, provide reassurance for people in the fight against crime and enhance the area.”

Steve Seymour, manager of Keighley’s Airedale Shopping Centre, praises the scheme as positive for the town.

“Having that police presence in the town centre is important and I believe it’s good for Keighley,” he added.

“It will enable officers to respond to anything straightaway.

“Plus we will be getting a new building on what is now a derelict site.”

Graham Benn, chairman of Keighley Business Improvement District, feels that the decision is the right one.

“I welcome it and I hope it makes a difference in terms of a greater police presence on the streets,” he said.

But Councillor Adrian Naylor, an Independent representing Craven ward on Bradford Council, criticises the spending and questions what impact the move will have.

“The police moved to Airedale House in 2005 and built cells there etc at considerable cost,” he said.

“Now, having imposed a record precept, they are spending money on moving back to a site across the road from where they used to be.

“I would rather they use the money to put more bobbies on the streets now in Keighley and other areas including Craven, rather than pay for yet another building in the centre of the town.

“It makes no difference whether the police station is at Airedale House or in the town centre – and they’ve spent money on the infrastructure at Airedale House.

“The police need to do more strategic thinking in relation to how they spend money.”

However, Mark Burns-Williamson – West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner – says the current police station is "no longer efficient or fit for purpose".

He added: "Policing has changed drastically since Airedale House opened.

"It’s well known that we have faced incredible pressures since the austerity cuts started in 2010 and at times difficult decisions have had to be made in order to protect the frontline as far as possible, including the closure and sale of a number of police buildings.

"There was no way to foretell back in 2005 how significantly budgets would be cut by the Government – around £140m and 2,000 police jobs in West Yorkshire – but I have always put the interests of our communities first.

"Throughout the Government cuts, protecting frontline policing has been a priority and that was exactly why I made the decision – with the backing of our communities – to raise the police element of council tax which is allowing for the additional recruitment of 264 officers and staff by the end of March 2020 in helping to rebuild our Neighbourhood Policing Teams amongst other priorities.

"Airedale House is no longer efficient or fit for purpose and that is why we are creating a bespoke, cost-effective station in the heart of Keighley to also serve the wider area – which I have long promised, with the support of local MP John Grogan and Bradford Council.

"The money raised from the eventual sale of Airedale House when the new site is ready will be reinvested into new facilities and policing generally."