£75m redevelopment plan for”end of life” Lancashire Police headquarters in Hutton – saving it from becoming a housing estate

A large part of the 43.5 acre site in Saunders Lane is said to be “at the end of its useable lifespan” and suffering from “decades of underinvestment going back to the 1990s”.

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Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden talks about the strategy…

Problems include staff operating out of converted bedrooms in on-site 1950s houses with leaky roofs, a lack of parking causing an overspill onto residential roads and the electrical infrastructure unsuitable for upgrading the vehicle fleet to electric.

An artist’s impression of how the site could look

Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden – who was elected in May 2021 – said overhauling the site has been “on the cards since day one”, as he looks to make the site fit for 21st century policing.

He said that selling the site for housing “had been one of the options”, but had been decided against due to financial cost of building elsewhere and because of the impact on neighbours.

So what is being proposed?

– “Most” of the former police houses dating from the 1950s to be demolished

An artist’s impression of how the HQ could look

– Consolidation of buildings into two main blocks

– Demolition of the current main entrance and building a new frame around the back of the existing building

– A two-tier car park “away from the line of sight”

– A remodelled entrance off Saunders Lane

The site will be largely consolidated into two main blocks and a new entrance will be constructed

– Retention and refurbishment of the 14.8 acre Lindle Lane site for police horses and dogs, including new kennels, refurbished stables and a new indoor training area, as well better perimetre management and conversion of a currently empty red brick building into offices.

– Landscaping and ecological work on the Saunders Lane site to improve the aesthetics and biodiversity of the site

“Not just a HQ”

Mr Snowden is keen that the site is seen not just as a HQ, but as the force’s central operating base, offering public order training, fleet maintenance, cyber and crime teams, contact management and other enabling services.

Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden

He said: “The transformation of Lancashire Constabulary’s HQ site would be a landmark moment for policing and crime prevention here in Lancashire.

“Whilst we have seen a new station in Blackpool and a refurbishment of Skelmersdale, the poor current Constabulary infrastructure at both Saunders Lane and Lindle Lane is the result of decades of underinvestment going back to the 1990s.

“The proposed plans to redevelop the sites would enable the replacement of buildings that are no longer safe or fit for purpose for modern day policing. The proposals would allow improved security, training and future proofed fleet facilities.

“Investment into critical police infrastructure was announced as part of my Fighting Crime Plan to meet the future needs of operational policing. It will ensure that we can stay ahead of ever-changing demand, particularly in the areas of digital and cybercrime which continue to evolve at enormous pace.”

What is the site currently like?

The current base at Saunders Lane is made up of numerous buildings, some of which are nearly 75 years old with the last investment in the construction of a new building taking place back in the 1990s.

The entrance to the HQ as it is currently

There is a large amount of estate from the 1960s and 70s that is at the end of its useable lifespan and most of the buildings at the site no longer meet the needs of a modern police force, in the digital and technologically enabled world we now operate in.

Mr Snowden said: “A lot of the site is Rag Red A, meaning it’s end of life.

“And it’s not joined up at all. Unless you work in the main building, then staff largely work in the former police houses on site, where bedrooms have been converted into offices and it’s just awful.

“The teams are doing the best they can, but the roofs leak during heavy rain!”

He added: “We need to have the crime teams on one floor, we need the electrical infrastructure there ready for fleet maintenance, and have the vehicle management, enabling, stores, kits all in one place so that cops aren’t having to wander around the site to get what they need.”

What do neighbours think?

A consultation was held with local residents and key stakeholders on Wednesday evening at Hutton Village Hall.

Mr Snowden said: “The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I think a lot of people were relieved that we weren’t going to sell-up for houses, because that was one of the options on the table.

“It’s a huge site and it’s not great for public transport. We do contact management there covering the whole county, and it’s important that we have people, for intance are policing Lancaster who have only ever known Penwortham.

“We have to get people coming into the site.”

He added: “If we didn’t do this work, the only other option would be to sell the site for housing and try and cram as many on there as possible.

“But the cost of building what we need – the specialist stuff – and the impact of selling the site on neighbours was the least attractive option.”

Mr Snowden said that all proposals had been made with neighbours in mind.

He said that 1950s houses that can be seen from the road would be “swept away”, the main entrance would be moved back 50ft, there would be improved landscaping, and problems of staff parking on nearby roads would be eased by a two-tier car park out of the line of sight.

How much will it cost and where’s the money coming from?

The initial three phases of the programme will cost in the region of £75 million and take four to five years to complete.

Mr Snowden said that the cost would be spread “over 20-odd years” and that he had been slowly increasing the capital revenue budget of the police to cover costs.

He said that he had it in mind to draw down a mortgage on some of the buildings, which the cpaital revenue budget would cover, and that the proposed new buildings would also generate significant efficiency savings.

Mr Snowden said: “It’s about doing right by the tax payers.

“The longer we leave this, the more expensive it gets. If I don’t bite the bullet, then whoever succeeds me in years to come has an even bigger problem.”

What would happen during construction?

The site in Saunders Lane and Lindle Lane would remain operational, with no disruption to 999 or 111 calls.

Some operations would have to be houses in temporary buildings on site, or moved to other sites owned by the Constabulary, including the former Runshaw College campus in Chorley.

What does the Chief Constable think?

Chief Constable Chris Rowley said: “The vast majority of buildings on both sites, whilst still operational, are no longer fit for purpose and haven’t been for quite some time. It is the right time to commit to the programme and ensure we have a safe and secure site that meets the needs of our staff and enables the delivery of exceptional policing to our communities.”

Your voice

Once a planning application is submitted to the Planning Authority – earmarked for January 2023 – residents and neighbours close to the site will have further opportunities to submit their views as part of the usual planning application process.

Chief Constable Chris Rowley