THE cells at Skipton Police Station could close as part of a major review of the county's police force.

But police chiefs have been quick to point out the closure of the custody suite will not impact on the viability of the police station, or the magistrates' court.

They have also stressed that the review will mean a boost to policing in rural areas - increasingly an area of concern.

It will also lead to the setting up of new investigation hubs - based at custody suites at Harrogate, Northallerton, York and Scarborough.

The number of neighbourhood officers patrolling Craven's rural areas will increase by three to six, in addition to ten Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs), taking it up to the same level of coverage as in Skipton town centre.

At the same time, the number of neighbourhood sergeants will be reduced from four to two - with one each responsible for the town centre and for rural areas.

Support will continue to be provided by specialist teams such as roads policing officers and the Operation Hawk Road Crime Team.

It is planned that in the future, anyone arrested - including those under suspicion of drink-driving - will be taken to Harrogate Police Station, or in times of poor weather, perhaps to other stations with cells.

In the year 2012/13, Skipton dealt with 648 prisoners, compared to 2,457 at Harrogate. Its closure will see savings of around £72,000 per year and the distribution of five sergeants to front line constable positions, some directly into Craven rural policing.

The police believe there will be little or no impact on Skipton Magistrates' Court - which sits on Fridays. Offenders committing crime in the Craven area would continue to be bailed to the Friday court - regardless of whether they were detained and charged in Harrogate.

The 'Operational Policing Model' revealed yesterday at a press conference in York jointly held by Chief Constable Dave Jones and Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan, has been in development for eight months and will now go out to consultation.

However, it is already planned to implement the plans in a phased approach between now and 2016.

Mrs Mulligan said the central objective was to increase the visibility of policing in communities.

"Making it easier for officers to do their jobs on the move, without having to come back to the station to fill in and submit paperwork, will mean more time on the beat serving the public and arresting criminals.

"We now need to discuss these proposals with local communities and ensure they understand what's needed of a modern and effective police service."

Mr Jones said: "By listening to what people care about most and expect from their police service in North Yorkshire, the proposed OPM is specifically designed to protect and enhance front-line visible policing."

Rumours about proposed changes to Skipton Police Station have been circulating for some weeks - with some believing the entire station was at threat.

At last week's Craven Area Committee of North Yorkshire County Council, town councillor Roland Wohlrapp was told by Superintendent Simon Lovell there was no threat to the police station.

More about the OPM can be found on North Yorkshire Police's website