Notting Hill police station is to be closed and sold, according to the Met’s consultation document. Picture courtesy Andrey Sulitskiy (CC BY-ND 3.0).

Notting Hill police station to be closed and sold

The government’s demand for further cuts in police expenditure means that a number of police stations in London are planned to be closed, among them Notting Hill police station at 99 – 101 Ladbroke Road. As a consequence, there will be only one police station in the borough: Kensington police station at 72 Earl’s Court Road. This is revealed in a consultation paper about the Met’s “public access engagement strategy”, issued by the London mayor’s office two weeks ago.

Since 2010, the Met has cut £600 million from its budget, in response to the government’s demand for spending cuts. As part of that savings effort, 149 front counters (i.e. police stations open to the public) were reduced to 73. However, the Met must now reduce the budget with another £400 million by 2021. One way of achieving this, according to the consultation paper, is to reduce the current 73 front counters to 32.

Closing the front counter may perhaps not sound too bad, but in reality it often means the closure of the whole police station, because without the need for public access, the staff and resources can be moved to another station.

Main entrance to Notting Hill police station. Picture from Google Street View, © Google.

For Kensington, the plan is to close and sell Notting Hill police station, and to move its 24 hour front counter to Kensington police station (where the front desk currently is only available daytime). The overall strategy is that there should be at least one 24 hour front counter in each borough, and as Kensington police station is larger and more centrally placed in the borough, it makes sense to place that 24 hour front counter there. However, the closure of the Notting Hill station means that there will be only one police station serving the public in RBKC – where some 160,000 people live (158, 700 in 2011) and where the average weekday population is close to 300,000 (280,000 in 2011)

The main argument for closing front counters is that the public less and less often visit police stations when they want to report crimes. In 2006 22% of all crime reports were done by people visiting front counters. Ten years later, in 2016, that figure had dropped to 8%. The remaining 92% were mainly reported over the telephone.

The consultation paper recognises that the public use the front counters for many other reasons than to report crime – in fact, crime reporting only accounts for 18% of the front counter visits. The most common reason for a visit (22%) is to hand in items or ask about lost property, and the third largest (16%) is to ask for directions and other information. However, the paper states that such visits “are not activities which need to take place at police station front counters.”

The Notting Hill station front counter has 4.2 visits per day from people wanting to report crime. This should be sufficient to allow the station to remain, as the document clearly states, on page 25, that “no front counter with more than four daily crime reports is being closed”.

In order to compensate for the loss of front counters, the Met plans to upgrade its online services, enabling people to both report crimes online and receive updates about the resulting investigation all the way to court; do some crime investigations via telephone; double the number of ward dedicated officers; give them better technology so they can do much of their “paperwork” while on patrol; and let them start and finish their shifts at small local hubs, where they will have their lockers and can re-charge their body cameras and other devices, instead of at a police station far from the ward.

Notting Hill police station is far from the only Met facility planned to be sold or vacated in the borough: the closed Notting Dale police station at 58 Sirdar Road (which now serves as offices) and the office annex to Kensington police station at 74 Earl’s Court Road will also be sold off, and four safer neighbourhood bases at Lancaster Road (Royalty Studios), Kenway Road (Earl’s Court), Pavilion Road (Knightsbridge) and St John’s Church in Chelsea will be vacated. These SNbases will be replaced by the new type of ward hubs.

Anyone wanting to participate in the consultation can access both the draft strategy document and the consultation questionnaire via this link.

The consultation ends 6 October 2017.

The former Notting Dale police station (left) and the annex to Kensington police station (right) are also to be sold. Pictures courtesy Google Street View, © Google.

Published 2017-08-01, updated 2017-10-02