Police call for rethink over homes plan

POLICE in East Anglia are urging the Government to rethink its plans for nearly 500,000 new homes, saying they fail to take into account the impact on crime and policing.

By Danielle Nuttall

POLICE in East Anglia are urging the Government to rethink its plans for nearly 500,000 new homes, saying they fail to take into account the impact on crime and policing.

The region's forces fear the new developments could generate more than double the level of crime and claim the proposals have insufficient regard for community safety.

The forces, which comprise Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and British Transport Police, insist a further 2,150 police officers and 1,325 police staff are needed over the next 15 years to meet the demand created by the growth in housing.

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The East of England plan, produced by the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA), will radically reshape the region over the next 16 years through the construction of 478,000 new homes and the creation of an estimated 421,500 new jobs.

The plan includes 58,600 new homes in Suffolk, 72,600 in Norfolk, 123,400 in Essex, and 89,300 in Cambridgeshire.

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A massive public examination of the plan, lasting six-months, opened last week.

This is taking place before an independent panel which will then make recommendations to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM).

Essex Police Deputy Chief Constable Charles Clark is to lead a regional representation to the panel today and tomorrow calling for changes to the plan and outlining the policing concerns.

“The police service has never felt the need to seek representation at such planning forums. However, given the enormity of proposed developments for the eastern region, chief constables feel that their voices need to be heard,” he said.

“We want to ensure that policing matters, including infrastructure and funding, are given due consideration at an early stage so that we can ensure that we build safe communities for the future.”

A spokesman for Suffolk police added last night: “Obviously this is very important for the future of the region and it's vital that policing is high up on the agenda.”

The region's forces are concerned the huge growth in housing will reduce their ability to police new communities effectively, and also their ability to target organised crime and terrorism.

They also claim the Home Office provides insufficient funding for the predicted growth in population.

But a spokesperson for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said last night: “Reducing crime and the fear of crime is a critical part of delivering thriving, sustainable communities.

“Existing planning policy already sets out the links between quality of design, new development and crime.

“Planning authorities are asked to have regard for the good practice guide Safer Places (an ODPM/ Home Office publication) and think about appropriate crime reduction measures without compromising the local environment when planning new developments.”

The spokesperson added: “There is commitment across Government to build enough homes for future generations and to ensure communities are supported by the right infrastructure - transport networks, schools, hospitals and leisure facilities.

“In order to maintain quality of life and community cohesion, providing the right level of policing for all areas is an essential part of that commitment.”

EERA is demanding more Government cash before forging ahead with plans for the new homes and has warned that although it continues to support the plan, it would not wholly endorse it without more backing.

Graham Nelson, EERA's team manager for regional planning and transportation, said last night: “EERA is concerned with the lack of funding generally from the Government and has suspended its own endorsement of its plan because it wants reassurance from the Government that the funding will be forth coming to deliver the infrastructure necessary with this level of growth.

“Clearly, in terms of the numbers of extra police, they are far better placed to comment, but many of the principles they are making are shared by us. We are keen to push the Government to come up with the level of funding able to deliver the strategy fully.”

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