Years ago I remember having to battle to keep a police station open in Ashford. I accepted the logic of closing smaller stations which few people ever visited, but not one as busy as Ashford.
In the light of those memories it was a real pleasure to be shown round the new much-improved station which has emerged next to the old tower, which is itself being stripped inside and will be re-used for Kent Police specialist teams. This will increase the police presence in Ashford in a way which is very welcome.
The new station has a more accessible entrance in Church Road, and inside is much better set out than the old rabbit warren of small offices. Instead there is an open-plan area which allows different teams to communicate more easily, allowing information to flow immediately in ways which obviously improve the quality of policing.
There is also a very welcome remote evidence office, where a police witness in a case can “appear in court” remotely. This means that the officer need only be off the streets for the time he or she is giving evidence instead of having to miss a whole shift travelling to and from court for what may only be ten minutes of giving evidence. Again this will improve the quality of the policing we receive.
Of course buildings are not the essence of good policing. It is equally welcome that we will see more CCTV around Ashford Town Centre as part of the Home Office Safer Streets initiative, as well as training in how to defuse situations for civilians who are likely to need it, such as taxi drivers and bar staff.
The officers themselves are delighted to be working in a better environment. I hope that in the coming months and years we will all benefit from this significant investment in policing in Ashford.