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‘Plan to axe Craven police base mustn’t threaten safety’
1:59pm Thursday 4th October 2012 in News
Moving Craven’s traffic police to Harrogate could result in considerable risks to road safety, councillors said.
North Yorkshire Police is looking at reducing its traffic bases from seven to four as a way of saving money and increasing efficiency.
But, following a meeting between police and Craven District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee, councillors have raised several concerns.
In a letter to Chief Superintendent Alison Higgins, committee chairman Coun John Roberts said: “The committee felt there will be considerable risks in remote road policing resources and assets.”
He said councillors recognised the need to make efficiencies, but wanted assurances that public safety and a high quality service would not be put at risk.
“Craven is a vast geographic district with a rural terrain and will suffer greater impact from the proposed changes than the smaller urban areas,” he said.
“Some difficult roads and routes require local knowledge, especially in emergencies.”
He said the A65 should be a priority area and pointed out that although local safer neighbourhood teams could respond to incidents, they would not have the expertise or resources to deal with major incidents.
“They will be under significant pressure to manage incidents until the arrival of specialist staff from Harrogate, particularly if the accident has taken place at extreme distances, such as Ingleton or Bentham.”
Coun Roberts added that any incident could result in traffic build-up, which would make it difficult for a specialist team to get through from Harrogate.
“Some of Craven’s roads are the only route between key locations without any alternative exit, so severe bottlenecks could build up and take a significant amount of time to clear,” he said.
Coun Roberts further raised concerns about an increase in speeding incidents, especially after it became known that police were no longer based at Skipton.
The committee recommended the police working closely with parish councils and the county’s highways department with traffic-calming and speed limits.
But it was sceptical of any move to Harrogate resulting in savings, because of travelling expenses.
Councillors were told by Superintendent Nick Hunter at an earlier meeting that a review of specialist units, including traffic police, was under way, but that a decision had yet to be made.
He said the police, like local authorities, were subject to the Govern-ment’s comprehensive spending review and needed to make savings.
It was believed the creation of a specialist serious traffic incident team would not only be more efficient, but free up the time of police officers who traditionally would have been dispatched to such incidents.
There would also be more use of automatic number plate recognition, safety camera vans at traffic hot spots and mobile speed cameras.