Huddersfield’s divisional police HQ is to move to Dewsbury leaving a question mark over policing facilities in the town.
At a meeting on Thursday, Kirklees councillors gave the go ahead for a new divisional HQ to be built in Dewsbury.
West Yorkshire Police said that both Huddersfield and Dewsbury police stations had reached the end of their operational lives and a search for a new site started as far back as 2006.
The Huddersfield Police Station site was no longer suitable for modern-day policing and senior officers originally wanted a new site on or within Huddersfield Ring Road.
Divisional commander Chief Supt Julie Sykes told Kirklees Council’s Strategic Planning Committee that both Huddersfield and Dewsbury police stations were “at the end of their functional life” and no longer fit for modern-day policing.
She said in 2006 West Yorkshire Police announced plans to build a new district HQ but no suitable sites were found and the project was paused.
In 2016 the search resumed and the first-choice option was to have a district HQ on or within Huddersfield Ring Road.
Chief Supt Sykes said: “There were very limited options and only one was fit for purpose but West Yorkshire Police was unable to secure that site.”
The officer was believed to be referring to the Kirklees Council-owned former Huddersfield Sports Centre site now set to be the University of Huddersfield’s Health Innovation Campus.
She added: “Between 2016 and 2020, 34 sites across Kirklees were assessed including a number owned and put forward by Kirklees Council.
“To assess the impact of moving the district HQ out of Huddersfield a demand mapping assessment was carried out and found demand was pretty much split equally between Huddersfield and Dewsbury.”
At the meeting Colne Valley Tory councillor Donna Bellamy was the only one to vote against the Dewsbury Police Station application.
She said: “I have concerns that if Huddersfield Police Station goes completely (Dewsbury) is a long way to get to from places in the valley.”
In response, planning officer Kate Mansell told the meeting: “Taking Clr Bellamy’s point we are straying slightly outside of planning but the intention is it would be a relocation for both Huddersfield and Dewsbury.
“The police would say they are retaining a base in Huddersfield town centre but it won’t be as a police station but that’s obviously a point for West Yorkshire Police to manage rather than looking at the planning application.”
After the meeting West Yorkshire Police issued a press release on what it described as a “milestone investment.”
The plan is to close both Huddersfield and Dewsbury police stations and build the new combined HQ on the former Kirklees College site in Halifax Road, Dewsbury.
Subject to planning permission the police would build a new base for 200 officers and support staff on the former Nissan/Fiat car dealership site off Southgate, opposite Tesco, in Huddersfield town centre.
The new Dewsbury HQ will have a public helpdesk and a custody suite with 30 cells, which it is thought will serve the whole of Kirklees.
The police statement described the new Huddersfield base as a “police station” but only said the building would accommodate officers from the Huddersfield South Patrol and Neighbourhood Policing Teams.
It made no mention of whether the new base would have a public helpdesk or cells.
No planning application has yet been submitted for the new Huddersfield site but the force wants both new buildings operational by the end of 2024.
Both current police stations will be sold off, leaving another big site vacant in Huddersfield town centre ahead of the £250 million Huddersfield Blueprint.
Huddersfield Labour MP Barry Sheerman said he knew the police had looked “very seriously” for a new site in Huddersfield but added: “I am very disappointed and will be talking to the Chief Constable about it later.”
In the press release Chief Supt Sykes added: “We have always stressed the importance of policing in Kirklees remaining fully embedded in communities and this cutting edge district HQ provides that exactly.”