Six-figure cost and not a newt in sight - taxpayer picks up bill for police HQ delay

Darlington and Stockton Times: Police Commissioner Ron Hogg, Kier Construction's Stuart Semple and Chief Constable Mike Barton at the topping out ceremony Police Commissioner Ron Hogg, Kier Construction's Stuart Semple and Chief Constable Mike Barton at the topping out ceremony

THE possible presence of newts on the site of a new £14m police headquarters cost the taxpayer more than £100,000 but not a single one of the highly protected amphibians was found, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Building of the long-awaited new Durham Police HQ was delayed by nearly four months after great crested newts, one of the most protected species in the UK, were found near the Aykley Heads site, in Durham City.

The newts, thought to number between two and ten, were believed to be living about 500m away near the East Coast Main Line – but it was feared they might find their way onto the building site.

Hence, environment watchdog Natural England refused to grant the force the necessary great crested newt development licence until it installed “temporary amphibian fencing”, low-level plastic sheeting buried in the ground and supported by posts, to stop the creatures straying into the path of the heavy machinery.

Work finally began in March and today (Monday, December 16), builders and police chiefs gathered for a ‘topping out’ ceremony – the three-storey shell having now reached its full height.

But afterwards, Chief Constable Mike Barton told The Northern Echo the delay had cost a six-figure sum and no newts had been found on site.

Police say crumbling Sixties-built current headquarters, just a few yards away, costs £1.6m a year to maintain and its successor will be £2,000 a day cheaper, meaning the four-month delay may have cost up to £240,000.

Mr Barton has made no criticism of Natural England, saying the police would always protect the environment.

But he said he was looking forward to the new 5,650sq-metre headquarters producing savings of £750,000 a year from when the 600 staff move in next September.

Defending the £14m expense, he said: “The payback period is not long and the useful life of the old building is coming to an end.

“Organisations have still got to be optimistic and positive about making investment, even in tough economic times.”

Mr Barton also said more police would be based around County Durham and Darlington, closer to communities.

Police and Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg said: “The new building will give staff who are working exceptionally hard more state-of-the-art facilities.

“It will also lead to a better, more efficient delivery of services.”

The old HQ is to be demolished to make way for around 230 houses, mostly executive homes.

Comments (7)

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1:20am Tue 17 Dec 13

SirLance says...

Newts! 100,000 ponds for a possible 10 of them ! can't make this stuff up! Unreal! Save lives not newts!
Newts! 100,000 ponds for a possible 10 of them ! can't make this stuff up! Unreal! Save lives not newts! SirLance

10:06am Tue 17 Dec 13

oliviaden6 says...

Nothing NEWT here then it seems the public pick up the bills every time a hair brained scheme is talked into being. Planning applications are being hijacked by third parties. There are to many self interested people willing to throw a spanner in the works, whether it be for good or just plain awkwardness. it has to stop at the end of the day we all pay needlessly.
Nothing NEWT here then it seems the public pick up the bills every time a hair brained scheme is talked into being. Planning applications are being hijacked by third parties. There are to many self interested people willing to throw a spanner in the works, whether it be for good or just plain awkwardness. it has to stop at the end of the day we all pay needlessly. oliviaden6

10:53am Tue 17 Dec 13

mark r says...

4 months to search a small area and find nothing !!!!
it isnt even funny these bureaucrats should be held accountable and made to pay for it out of their over inflated budgets
4 months to search a small area and find nothing !!!! it isnt even funny these bureaucrats should be held accountable and made to pay for it out of their over inflated budgets mark r

11:24am Tue 17 Dec 13

ian923 says...

600 staff at the HQ of one of the UK,s smallest Forces? Is every single one really necessary?
600 staff at the HQ of one of the UK,s smallest Forces? Is every single one really necessary? ian923

1:35pm Tue 17 Dec 13

stevegg says...

ian923 wrote:
600 staff at the HQ of one of the UK,s smallest Forces? Is every single one really necessary?
Not if all local forces were amalgamated (as as happenned in Scotland this year) as proposed in 2006 much to the opposition of each of the 43 England & Wales Chief executives who were determined to protect their empires at all costs and still do. Imagine if Northumbria, Durham, Cleveland & N.Yorks were all amalgamated into a North East England Constabulary think of the savings that could be made. One chief constable instead of 4, One Police and crime commisioner instead of 4, one set of chief executive instead of 4, one personnel dept instead of 4, one purchasing dept instead of 4, one fleet management instead of 4, one set of stores instead of 4 - the list goes on but you get the idea. At the end of the day the Chief constables, crime commisioners and executives are just protecting themselves and their own interests and will only make cuts on things that dont affect them, the gravy train roles on!
[quote][p][bold]ian923[/bold] wrote: 600 staff at the HQ of one of the UK,s smallest Forces? Is every single one really necessary?[/p][/quote]Not if all local forces were amalgamated (as as happenned in Scotland this year) as proposed in 2006 much to the opposition of each of the 43 England & Wales Chief executives who were determined to protect their empires at all costs and still do. Imagine if Northumbria, Durham, Cleveland & N.Yorks were all amalgamated into a North East England Constabulary think of the savings that could be made. One chief constable instead of 4, One Police and crime commisioner instead of 4, one set of chief executive instead of 4, one personnel dept instead of 4, one purchasing dept instead of 4, one fleet management instead of 4, one set of stores instead of 4 - the list goes on but you get the idea. At the end of the day the Chief constables, crime commisioners and executives are just protecting themselves and their own interests and will only make cuts on things that dont affect them, the gravy train roles on! stevegg

1:38pm Tue 17 Dec 13

Homshaw1 says...

£100K spent on 10 newts that turn out to not exist
Buildings that are no good after 50 years
600 staff in a small police force headquarters - wouldn't care if they didn't repeated fail to deliver.

No wonder this country is broke.

As for Mr Hogg he seems to spend his time seeking out every available photo opportunity
£100K spent on 10 newts that turn out to not exist Buildings that are no good after 50 years 600 staff in a small police force headquarters - wouldn't care if they didn't repeated fail to deliver. No wonder this country is broke. As for Mr Hogg he seems to spend his time seeking out every available photo opportunity Homshaw1

3:02pm Tue 17 Dec 13

roaduser98 says...

Quote:
“Organisations have still got to be optimistic and positive about making investment, even in tough economic times.”
So long as its the tax payer footing the bill no one is that bothered. We need a nice new office block so that the personnel who work there can keep nice and warm and cosy. As in all these 'tax payer funded ventures, no one sees the actual running costs once the building is finished and occupied.
Quote: “Organisations have still got to be optimistic and positive about making investment, even in tough economic times.” So long as its the tax payer footing the bill no one is that bothered. We need a nice new office block so that the personnel who work there can keep nice and warm and cosy. As in all these 'tax payer funded ventures, no one sees the actual running costs once the building is finished and occupied. roaduser98

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