Sunday, 14 August 2022

Village police office to shut and be sold for development

THE police office in Sonning Common is to close at the end of next month to save money.

Thames Valley Police plans to sell the building and land in Lea Road for about £85,000.

It is estimated that the force will save about £9,000 a year as a result of the closure.

From April 1, the nearest duty police officers will be based at the police station in Greys Road, Henley.

Inspector Mark Harling, head of the Henley police area, said he wanted to continue to have a good relationship with Sonning Common and the parish council.

In a letter to parish council chairman Douglas Kedge, he said: “The Sonning Common police office has been in place for a significant amount of time and we have been grateful to the local community for working with us for all these years.

“We do want to ensure that more time is spent by officers in the community and not in police buildings.

“With that in mind, all our teams have been issued with smartphones and this will assist them in dealing with the part of their work which may have once necessitated the team returning to police stations to complete administrative tasks.”

Insp Harling said the police would be restructured in terms of neighbourhood, investigations and responses to the public in order to provide a better service.

He wrote: “The structure is designed so that neighbourhood officers spend more time on their areas and that time is of a better quality. The hope is that you will get more rather than less out of the neighbourhood teams.

“The officers will continue to be supported by PCSOs who are the visible face of the service. 

“The neighbourhood team will be much better equipped and resourced to tackle the longer term issues that impact on communities and will be able to work more effectively with all partners and the communities themselves to tackle issues.

“We are currently undergoing training in connection with detailed problem-solving and crime reduction techniques.

“Neighbourhoods will continue to focus on the four main aspects of neighbourhood policing, which are visibility, engagement, building community resilience and problem-solving.

“A team will be stationed at Henley, which is only five miles away, and they will retain their police vehicles.

“It will be the case that staff will be taken to Sonning Common in order that they can continue with their patrols in the way they do now.” Speaking at a council meeting on Monday, Councillor Kedge said the police could not afford to keep the station going.

He said: “Insp Harling and his new sergeant Tim Pavey came to see me and told me the office would close at the end of March. It will be sold as development land.

“They take the view that the closure will be of great benefit to all. Insp Harling said it was a choice between closing the station or losing personnel.”

The parish council has agreed to provide storage space at the village hall for two bikes for use by officers patrolling the village.

Cllr Kedge said: “Insp Harling is concerned about antisocial behaviour in the village and there being no police presence.

“He has suggested the two bikes be stored and used to patrol the village. Officers will come in their car and then cycle around the area. My view is this is better then no presence at all.”

Police have been trying to tackle a problem with noise and speeding cars late at night in Wood Lane and Woodlands Road since the start of last year.

Pc Sue Bradshaw identified seven youths who were warned they could be fined or jailed for antisocial behaviour.

To help tackle the problem, the parish council installed extra CCTV cameras on the village hall in Wood Lane. Councillor Leigh Rawlins said he was concerned about loss of the police office and potential loss of PCSOs as up to six in South Oxfordshire could be axed after the district council, which part-funds the roles, agreed to cut £100,000 from its contribution, saying Thames Valley Police should meet the full cost.

“I can’t help but see this alongside the announcement from the district council,” said Cllr Rawlins.

“One can only imagine whether that budget will be picked up by Thames Valley Police and whether we are on the cusp of losing our cover and what that implies.”

Meanwhile, the parish council is to look into installing a waste bin in Reades Lane to help control rubbish said to be being dropped by pupils at Chiltern Edge School.

Gillian Manning, who lives in the street, said there used to be a bin near the junction with Ashford Avenue but it was removed two years ago.

She said: “We are getting an increasing amount of litter from children coming out of school. We are not the only ones suffering from this so please reinstall that litter bin.”

Deputy parish clerk Ros Varnes said the bin was removed by South Oxfordshire District Council.

She said: “I am not sure they will reinstate it but the parish council could buy another one and put it there with the permission of the district council.”

Cllr Kedge said the council would consider buying a new bin.

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