Dungiven PSNI station could close permanently to the public early in the New Year, the ‘Journal’ can reveal.
Area Commander Sam Donaldson says he will be making a public announcement about the immediate future of the Main Street station in the next couple of months.
“The reality is no-one is calling,” he said, “maybe one or two people. There is a reluctance for people to be seen coming out of the station, and we know that.”
Earlier this year, the Policing Board announced the station was one of several to close as part of a review of the police estate.
Opening hours at the station were limited, open every Tuesday for two hours but they were further reduced to two hours, every other Tuesday earlier this year. However, that looks set to end altogether in the coming months.
“We also have a mobile police station but, the feedback we’re getting from the Dungiven community is they’re not overly comfortable coming up and walking into it,” said Chief Inspector Donaldson.
“So, what we’re doing is to increase the community surgeries.
“They’re less profile and, at our first one, people did turn up - one man wanted help with anti social behaviour in and around his home and, you know, something like that is success for me, so we’ll continue to do that and explore the use of those shared spaces.
“We want to be more visionary and, the reality is, at some stage in the New Year, we will make a public announcement that Dungiven station is no longer going to be open, and that will be happening very soon.”
If Dungiven police station goes under the hammer the price tag will be around £150,000, Mr Donaldson revealed earlier this year.
The 0.34 hectare site was acquired by police in 1926 and, according to the PSNI figures, costs £74,645 to run each year.
Of that, £50,000 accounts for rates. The rest is for electricity and maintenance.
The cost of getting the station operational for officers on a 24/7 basis would be £80-£150,000.
Decommissioning costs - to make it suitable to hand over to another group - would be in the region of £48,000.
A decision on the station’s long term future could come mid-late 2013, said the Area Commander.
“That’s a decision to be taken at the Department of Justice and Policing Board level and, I think, it will be six to nine months before a decision is made.”
Part of decision making process involves finding a new home for the telecommunications site currently at Dungiven.
“Work has being going on in the past few weeks and I am happy we have planning in place to take it forward,” he said.
As for the future of policing in Dungiven, which Mr. Donaldson says has made remarkable progress in the town, the Area Commander wants it to be part of the proposed new community hub currently being explored by Limavady Borough Council.
“I would love to see a site in Dungiven where people can come and get advice around social services and welfare, talk to a police officer, go for a coffee and go to the gym. Imagine that in Dungiven? “That would be tremendous, and I’ve said that before, and it’s still my vision for the community.
“I understand the Council are looking at that as part of the consultation and I have been interviewed about that and I very clearly gave my views.”
In the meantime, police will continue with police surgeries, which Mr. Donaldson urged people to use. “They’re quiet and confidential and less profile,” he added.