Deal is agreed to turn Saxmundham police station into community hub

A project to turn a town’s police station into a community hub has taken a huge step forward with the agreement of a deal to buy the building.

Saxmundham Town Council has been negotiating for the past few months with Suffolk Constabulary over the sale of the property – and the police have now accepted the council’s offer of £190,000.

Depending on how quickly the contract is completed and the refurbishment of the building in Station Approach takes place, the police may negotiate to rent part of the premises for a short while as a base for officers working in the area before their expected move to a joint share with the fire service.

Town councillors first decided to buy the police station after plans were submitted to demolish the building and replace it with four new houses.

With land in the town centre being swallowed up for housing and few sites left available for the development of community facilities, it was felt the building should be saved or the missed opportunity would be regretted.

After deciding to have the building listed as a community asset, an approach was made to the police who were immediately happy to open negotiations and withdrew the planning application.

It was suggested the building could be used for a youth hub, but latest proposals envisage better offices for the town council, a meeting place for groups, exhibitions and seminars, and an information centre – housing organisations such as the CAB – for the public, which would be an asset for the whole town.

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Town council chairman Roger Plant said: “It’s now up to us to make sure this is a worthwhile venture.

“The only issue left to settle is how long it will take the police to have their new accommodation at the fire station ready but we will negotiate that separately. It might be ready by the time we complete the purchase or we will lease back to them some of the property until they move out.”

He said little work would be needed to make the building immediately useable.

He said: “It might not be as we eventually want it but we can move in and then we can carry out the refurbishment after that.

“We have already set aside the money needed for renovation and maintenance.”

The council has agreed to take out a loan of £250,000 from the Public Works Loan Board to make the purchase and pay for the renovation and conversion – expected to cost around £50,000 – and was keen to secure the deal as the board’s offer was due to expire this spring.

It has allocated £25,000 a year in its budget to finance the loan and will pay it back over 12 years or 25 years.