THE decision to sell off several police stations across the county - including in Highworth and Cricklade - has come in for fierce criticism.

It comes after a leaflet was circulated on social media showing 10 police stations in Wiltshire "for sale by informal tender".

The leaflet

The leaflet

Wiltshire Police announced in 2017 it was to close and sell ten underused police stations by 2021, with Wilton, Alderbury and Amesbury stations among those to be offloaded.

Since the closure of Salisbury's Wilton Road police station in June 2014 there have been two custody units in the county, one in Swindon and one in Melksham.

Police and Crime Commissioner Angus Macpherson said in 2017 this was "sufficient" and prisoner numbers did not justify spending up to £11m of public money to move a custody unit 12 miles.

Atiqul Hoque, Wiltshire Councillor and chairman of Salisbury Area Board

Atiqul Hoque, Wiltshire Councillor and chairman of Salisbury Area Board

'Outrageous decision'

Atiqul Hoque, Wiltshire councillor for Salisbury St Edmund and Milford, and city councillor for St. Francis & Stratford, says he "strongly objects to this outrageous decision", and wants to send "a clear message to PCC to withdraw this sale of police stations straight away", until an enquiry is conducted.

Coun Hoque also "wants answers as why this rationale decision is taken".

He said: "The message I want to convey to PCC is: he simply can’t put the police station on the market at twilight of his tenure, and put the future PCC position in more difficulty.

"Village police stations plays a vital role in keeping the community safe. Beside, recently we know the residents will be paying more towards the police, then why the urgency to put the stations on the market!

"It should be withdrawn immediately, or the decision to be deferred until at least the new PCC is appointed".

PCC candidate Jonathon Seed

PCC candidate Jonathon Seed

'Decision is out of date'

The Conservative candidate for Police and Crime Commissioner, Jonathon Seed, has described it as "utterly outrageous".

In a post on Facebook, Cllr Seed has also accused Mr Macpherson of offloading the stations "in the very twilight of his tenure", saying he is doing so "without considering the requirements of the Force, that have undoubtedly changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic".

He added: "Be under no illusion, if I am elected in May, the sale of these sites and properties will be halted pending a review of what the Force needs in 2021 and into the future, not based on an out of date review conducted several years ago".

Mike Rees, independant candidate for Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner supported by Steve Fulcher. Photographs taken by Barbara Leatham Photography on January 28th 2021 in Salisbury Wiltshire. Photos taken outside Salisbury Cathedral, Market Square,

Mike Rees, independant candidate for Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner

'The issue needs to be looked at'

Independent candidate Mike Rees, who last week said he would campaign for Salisbury's police station to reopen, also criticised the move.

He says it shows why, in his opinion, "the whole issue of the Police estate needs to be looked at".

He added: "When the election was postponed last year, I did comment that I felt it would be prudent not to pursue any further closures of Police stations until a new PCC was elected.

"Having been shown this, it is clear that more closures are on the cards. If elected, I will make it a priority to review these plans.

"Clearly some stations are old buildings and no longer fit for purpose, but not all of those listed here, and what plans if any are there to replace these? Visibility and accessibility is crucial to effective policing of local communities".

The Wiltshire and Swindon PPC has been contacted for comment.

PCC Angus Macpherson

PCC Angus Macpherson