Police station closure fears as hours cut

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Local councillors have expressed fears that Larne police station could close after a reduction in opening hours was announced.

The changes to the opening hours of the local station’s enquiry office will take effect from December 1 .

The facility is currently open from 8am-12am, seven days a week. However, this is set to be reduced by 50 per cent on weekdays to eight hours, opening from 10am-6pm. Meanwhile, Saturday and Sunday opening hours will be slashed by two-thirds, opening from 12pm-4pm.

DUP councillor Gregg McKeen said he was concerned at the “erosion of policing services in Larne.” He told the Times: “My concern would be what the next steps are, if they could be to take further services away.

“I wouldn’t want to raise fears that the station is going to close, but I fear if they keep chopping away at it at what point do they say that the station isn’t economically viable?”

Cllr McKeen added that the cuts could affect the public. He continued: “Some people may be inconvenienced. This isn’t officers on the beat, it’s the front desk, the public drop-in service. There is no threat to response times. Only two per cent of the usage is around the times it will close.”

Sinn Fein councillor James McKeown branded the cuts “totally unacceptable.” He stated: “I think the community in Larne has been badly served by the reduction in policing operations. It certainly hasn’t promoted confidence that the PSNI will be able to maintain the standards people in this area deserve and need.

“I would be concerned particularly at the weekends with four-hour opening times. I am concerned at the impact on response times. We had Chief Constable George Hamilton in Larne Council six months ago and he categorically denied there was any plan to close Larne station down but this news seems to go contrary to what was said.”

A police press officer said the cuts should have “no effect” on response times.’

Police Chief Superintendant Raymond Murray stated: “It is important the public is reassured that any reduction in enquiry office opening hours should not mean a reduction in our service.

“Policing remains a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation and we will continue to be there at people’s time of need. The decision to reduce the opening hours for enquiry offices was driven by a need to reduce budget spend. However, it is too much of a jump to say it means that Larne station will eventually close.”