Council agrees deal to buy police station for housing
PUBLISHED: 09:57 23 June 2015
NORTH Somerset Council has struck a deal to buy Weston Police Station for an undisclosed sum – and is ‘extremely’ likely to knock it down to make way for posh new housing.
Executive councillors will decide later today whether to go ahead with the purchase, which will also see the authority buy the neighbouring Grade II-listed former magistrates court in Walliscote Road.
The court has been closed since 2011, while Avon and Somerset Constabulary plans to vacate the police station and move to Weston Gateway Business Park near the M5 next year.
The Mercury reported earlier this year that the police station has structural defects and so is likely to be knocked down.
That means work could begin on the council’s plan for ‘contemporary urban housing’ in as little as eight to nine months if the deal goes ahead.
The police and council leaders have already agreed terms a ‘direct disposal’ of the station building, although the price has not been disclosed.
A council spokesman said: “The price is considered confidential by the police authority until such time as the transfer completes as, until that stage, the transaction is not guaranteed to complete and, if it doesn’t, the property might be brought to the market at a later date.
“The council has not undertaken this type of residential proposal in the past, although we have considerable experience with development generally, including schools and large scale infrastructure projects.
“While the final details as to the future development of the site are not yet determined it is extremely unlikely that any scheme for the site would include the retention of the existing police station building.”
Last year, Camden Council in London became the first council in the country to go into business as a house builder, launching homes for sale on the open market under its own name.
North Somerset views buying the buildings as part of its plan to regenerate Weston’s town centre, which includes proposals to attract thousands of people to the area by providing more homes.
Martin O’Neill, the council’s property estates and regeneration manager, said: “The opportunity to secure external funding as part of the housing zone designation to support the cost of purchase mitigates significantly the council’s financial risk in acquiring this property.
“There will be a financial commitment in holding the property and progressing detailed design and planning work, the details of which will be dealt with under further appropriate reports/authorisations as the project progresses.
“In the absence of external funding, the purchase will be funded by the Strategic Investment Reserve, and future net financial benefits arising from the developed scheme may be used to replenish this funding source.”
Mr O’Neill said if the council does not go forward with purchasing the station and court, the buildings could remain vacant for a significant amount of time.
He said it could also result in a scheme which fails to meet the council’s ambitions for high-quality homes in the town centre.