Chief constable urges closure of his village station

Chief Constable Ian Latimer. Pic: Northern Constabulary Chief Constable Ian Latimer is due to retire next spring

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A chief constable urged the closure of his village police station to help maintain a high number of officers in the Highlands and Islands.

Ian Latimer, of Northern Constabulary, told Northern Joint Police Board the station at Beauly and 15 other sites should go as part of £4.7m savings.

Closing the buildings could help the force avoid compulsory retirements.

But the board agreed to defer a decision on Beauly until the impact of its closure was clearer.

Board members also decided to continue dialogue with senior officers and police staff on shutting other stations and seek to protect opening hours at Stornoway, Lerwick and Kirkwall.

Highland councillor Hamish Wood said 475 people had signed a petition urging for the retention of the station at Beauly.

He also asked for Drumnadrochit to be saved.

Mr Latimer said communities where stations closed would continue to have a visible police presence.

He said closures did not mean the withdrawal of officers from an area.

Northern has 807 officers but Mr Latimer said that by next year the number could fall to 761 - the lowest considered necessary to police the region.

'Family's needs'

The chief constable said: "I would rather have a police officer who was well-equipped and well-led than an empty police station with a nice sign on the outside of it and no means of giving a response."

Mr Latimer, who is due to retire next spring, said Beauly was the closest station to his family home.

He said: "I will soon be someone who maybe looking for a police response and I would rather have someone ready to attend to my needs and my family's needs."

The senior officer also said that the village was just two miles away from another police station at Muir of Ord, which has not been earmarked for closure.

Mr Latimer said making cuts was not something the force, or the board, wanted to do.

But he said savings were being forced on Northern Constabulary and he wanted to leave a balanced budget for his successor, George Graham.

Firing line

The sites that could close are in Scalloway and Dunrossness on Shetland and Stromness on Orkney.

Barvas, Carloway, Ness and Tarbert on the Western Isles could also close, as well as Broadford on Skye.

Across the Highlands, Bettyhill, Lybster, Evanton, Cromarty, Spean Bridge, Beauly, Drumnadrochit and Ardersier are also in the firing line.

It has also been suggested reducing operating hours at Lerwick on Shetland, Kirkwall on Orkney, Stornoway on Lewis, and Portree on Skye.

Also, Thurso, Alness, Aviemore, Nairn, Dornoch and Tain could reduce hours.

The board will meet again in January next year.

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