The recent masterplan for Bridgend town centre hinted that South Wales Police were “reviewing their accommodation requirements”. It appears that moves have been a lot quicker than I had anticipated.
A planning application has been submitted for a new custody centre and police station (it’s described as an office block in the application but it is a police station) at the former Tryst Holdings factory at Queens Road on the Bridgend Industrial Estate. The new station will be a modular building, by Wernick Buildings, based in Neath and has been designed by Group 4 Security (G4S).
G4S already provide custody services for South Wales Police, but I think this is the first example I know of in Wales of a private company financing, building and running a police station – which will be leased to South Wales Police. It might even be one of the first in EnglandandWales. G4S are described in the planning documents as a “trusted partner of choice [to SWP] and enjoy the benefits of public sector/private sector relationship.”
Understandably the current police station on Cheapside would shut. The custody facilities there no longer meet Home Office regulations, while the cost of refurbishment would be prohibitive.
Funnily enough, the Cheapside site has been identified in the masterplan for retail development. Is this one of the “benefits of public sector/private sector relationship?” It would be a great addition to the town if the right tenant/scheme came along, like a big department store, for example Debenhams or Marks and Spencer – both notable absentees from Bridgend town centre.
Another interesting item to note, is that the planning bumf implies that this new custody centre could serve a much wider area than Bridgend – even as far away as Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil and Swansea. That explains the site – which has easy access to the M4 – as well as the size of the facility. It looks more like a small prison than a police station. To put things in perspective, the recently opened police station in Cardiff Bay has 60 cells, compared to the 40 at the proposed Bridgend site (with room for additional expansion).
It’s great that Bridgend might get a new police station, the current one is outdated and its redevelopment could spur on the town centre’s regeneration. It’s also good that a Welsh-based supplier will provide the building and up to 100 jobs could be created. It might even serve to deter some of the boy racers and crime that occurs on the industrial estate.
I don’t have an objection to it being privately financed and run either, though the thought of the market further creeping into criminal justice (Parc Prison in Bridgend is also run by G4S) raises concerns. G4S aren’t OCP but it all seems a little bit Robocop. Where will private/public partnership in justice stop? Where are the boundaries?
However, no direct pedestrian access to/from the town centre? A skeleton bus service? In an area that’s abandoned past 6pm? Hmm.