THERE was encouraging news for Newcastleton this week when Lothian and Borders Police Board agreed to look at ways of increasing police visibility in the village.
Senior officers will now discuss how this can be achieved after the board unanimously backed a recommendation from Chief Constable David Strang to sell the police station in South Hermitage Street in a bid to save £7,241 in running costs and net an estimated capital receipt of £27,000.
The facility has been unstaffed and had no public access for several years, although it was used regularly by Newcastleton’s special constable Keith Brough before his retirement earlier this year. Other than that, it has been used purely by Hawick-based officers for comfort breaks and refreshments during patrols in the Liddesdale area.
At the board meeting in Haddington on Monday, Councillor Gavin Logan (Tweeddale East), representing Scottish Borders Council, stressed that 800-person Newcastleton was a special case given its remoteness – 20 miles from Hawick – and the lack of mobile telephone coverage.
He was reflecting the views of local sub-postmaster Jim Rowan who told us: “While for locals, the presence of a police station may only be a comforting perception, for visitors the sight of the police sign, which is illuminated at night, is a visible deterrent to crime.”
Councillor Logan said this week that the sign would remain and he was satisfied senior officers would make genuine attempts to increase visibility by deploying more community beat officers (CBOs) and organising more frequent visits by community contact vehicles (CCVs).
“At the moment there is just one of these CCVs, which are basically mobile police stations, operating across the whole of G Division,” said Mr Logan.
“Now our divisional commander, Chief Superintendent Graham Sinclair, is to prepare a business case on getting more CCVs deployed in the Borders and that will certainly have a positive impact on Newcastleton.
“He will report back to the board in January, but I am confident the Borders will get at least another one and this will certainly address to visibility issue in those communities which no longer have police stations.”
As expected, the board agreed to sell the unmanned stations at West Linton and Innerleithen to achieve annual revenue savings of £2,179 and £6,548 respectively. The properties have been given respective estimated market values of £27,000 and £60,000.
But the proposal from the chief constable to dispose of the police post at Earlston, valued at £55,000 and with annual running costs of £4,576, will be the subject of consultation with villagers and the voluntary groups which use the facility.
TheSouthern understands that no timescale has been set for this process which could involve negotiations over a possible community buy-out.
There will, however, be immediate consultation on controversial proposals to cut the opening hours of the stations at Peebles and Galashiels.
It was ordered by the board, again at the behest of Councillor Logan, despite a report outlining that the reduction in public counter hours would save £33,000 in Peebles, where 24 officers and three civilian staff are based, and £57,240 in Galashiels, which hosts 44 officers and nine civilians.
Community councils and other interest groups will be asked about the proposal to cut opening hours in Peebles to 9am till 5pm Monday to Friday.
In Galashiels it is proposed to retain the 7am till 11pm public counter hours from Monday to Friday, but to cut the hours to 9am till 5pm on Saturday and to close the station on Sunday.