Police chiefs in Nottinghamshire have backed bold plans to revitalise Newark town centre to enable it to once again become a jewel in the crown of Nottinghamshire.
In recent years the town, like many other UK towns, has been blighted by retail decline, decreasing footfall in the town centre, skill shortages, low wages and a lack of new residential and family entertainment venues.
This, in turn, has led to an increase in anti-social behaviour and other crimes, coupled with a lack of community cohesion and integration. Limited town centre living and lack of diversification of the night-time economy has meant anti-social behaviour persists.
In recent surveys residents have said their number one fear is community safety. In one ward alone, only 63 per cent of residents said they felt safe during the day compared to a national average of 93 per cent. And after dark this figure fell right down to just 16 per cent, a staggering 60 per cent below the national average.
In a bid to tackle this, Nottinghamshire Police has been working with the Newark Towns Fund Board on proposals to relocate the current police station at Queen’s Road to Castle House, which is Newark and Sherwood District Council’s headquarters. This would, in turn, release the land the police station is on to bring in residential living and businesses to the town centre – both of which will help transform the town centre and help design out crime.
This would give the police the opportunity to relocate next to other public services, enhancing work between the police, community protection, adult social care, licensing and youth work, enabling better intelligence and joint task force working.
The plans are a part of the towns’ 30-year Town Investment Plan, developed by the dedicated Newark Towns Fund Board revolving around 30 high-level projects aimed at transforming the town.
These ambitious plans for Newark were last month submitted to the government, setting out major proposals for regenerating the town centre, boosting business and infrastructure, making Newark one of the first places to bid for up to £25m funding as part of the national Towns Fund initiative.
If the bid is successful it is hoped the money will enable to town to build on its significant past, creating a place that is rooted in history yet embraces opportunity, potential and ambition.
Already a number of grand plans have been revealed including creating an International Air Space and Training Institute to create new jobs locally and nationally in aviation and a construction college to create educational pathways into innovative construction while upskilling local people.
Nottinghamshire Police Chief Constable Craig Guildford said: “The police station is on prime land and releasing this is the key to allowing the Newark Towns Fund Board to be able to realise its ambitions for this area.
“The area within which the current police station is based has high levels of deprivation and our departure will enable a significant new development to be assembled. In addition, co-locating with a range of partners at Castle House will facilitate even stronger partnership working and assist with continuing to jointly drive down levels of crime and anti-social behaviour.
“To me this is a no brainer – we need to design out crime and we need to work in a more agile way with our partners to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour in Newark going forward, which relocating together gives us the opportunity and ambition to do so. Our strategic drivers are to remain local, to increase the amount of time spent by police officers on the street and to drive efficiencies.
“That is why I am fully supportive of these plans and have been working with the Board as part of its plans to make Newark a safe and vibrant place to live and work once again. Newark has all the ingredients to make it one of the country’s most attractive places to live, work and visit. It is acknowledged, however, that has yet to fulfil its potential and we are grateful for the opportunity afforded to Nottinghamshire Police to contribute to the Town Investment Plan and to the transformation of Newark.”
He added the plans to redesign this part of the town would enhance footfall into the area enabling better self-policing and the provision of crime prevention assets that will reduce actual and perceived crime in the town centre.
To not allow this would significantly restrict Newark’s ability to fulfil its potential as a visitor destination, a vibrant night-time economy and a place for living for families, as young people are disinclined currently to go into the town centre in the evenings. The project would also release assets for improving community safety such as CCTV in the town centre.
The plans would see the police station relocate to a shared public services site at Castle House on the Great North Road close to the community where there are real and perceived challenges. The relocation, while not on the high street, is still in the town centre next to a transport hub, and makes it nearer to an actual and perceived crime hot spot in the town.
Nottinghamshire’s Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Emma Foody added: “There is no doubt this move will have a positive psychological and practical impact on the community and with residents.
“We expect crimes traditionally more associated with town centres such as shop theft, robbery and assaults to reduce as well as there to be a reduction in anti-social behaviour as the greater footfall from residential living will provide both a deterrent and early warning for police.
“And I can reassure residents this move will enhance policing in Newark, not detract from it. Despite the challenges of austerity, we have increased the number of officers at Newark in recent years and this October we will be launching Operation Reacher in Newark, which will see a further increase in resources.”
Operation Reacher tackles drugs, violent crimes and organised crime gangs and has already had significant successes in areas of Nottinghamshire where it is currently set up. Reacher teams are now set to be deployed right across the city and county working in partnership with neighbourhood teams.
The current station area has been identified as a town centre site for future housing development that will address the lack of living provision in the town centre. More people living in the town centre is a key element of the strategy to revitalising the town centre for both the day and night-time economy.
Councillor David Lloyd, Co-chair of the Newark Towns Fund Board and Leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council, said: “Crime and anti-social behaviour restricts Newark’s ability to fulfil its potential as a visitor destination, with a vibrant night-time economy. The move will directly address the community safety concerns of our residents, by reinvesting funds and resources into frontline policing in Newark.
“It would bring about a welcome opportunity to increase collaboration and intelligence sharing with other public services, including the Council’s public protection team and adult social care.”
He added while this project will address urban regeneration planning and land-use issue in relocating to a site adjacent to other public service provision and release the site for residential living in the town centre, it was important that this project addresses the community safety concerns of residents as highlighted in both the 2018 Residents’ Survey and the 2020 Town Fund consultation.
“Community safety was the most important issue in the 2018 survey for residents and through the consultation,” he said. “The town needs to address this challenge in order to tackle the actual and perceived threat of crime in the town centre that is restricting Newark’s ambition to grow its town centre living and develop its visitor and night-time economy.
“The solution of relocating the police station to a crime hotspot area, the provision of enhanced community protection assets and releasing the site for town centre living will help reduce crime and enhance community perception around feeling safe.”
If given the green-light it is hoped the plans to relocate the police station and build new residential and business premises on the current police station site could be realised in less than two years’ time.
Further information is available at https://www.newark-sherwooddc.gov.uk/business/newarktownsfund/.