Balerno residents slam police counter closure plan

Jonathan Horne signs the Save Our Stations petition. Picture: Greg Macvean

Jonathan Horne signs the Save Our Stations petition. Picture: Greg Macvean

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CLOSING the police station counter at Balerno will be another blow to a village already “losing its character”, claim fuming residents.

The station is one of ten across the Lothians that will shut its front desk under proposals floated by the single force chiefs.

Angry residents have hit out at the plans, and are backing our hard-hitting campaign against the closures.

As they clamoured to sign our petition against the proposed cuts, exasperated locals claim the closure could hit them especially hard given housebuilders want to build at least 800 homes in the area, significantly boosting the local population.

And they warned that the move would deprive elderly locals of the ability to speak to officers face to face, and further erode the local community.

The cuts are planned despite figures showing more than 100,000 people a year use the police stations that are due to have their public counters axed. It is estimated the changes will lose 830 opening hours to the public.

Stewart Marchington, 23, who works at the Post Office, said the closure would be “a sad day” for the village.

He said: “I’m surprised by it. The village isn’t dying as such but it is losing its character. The supermarket has come in and taken a lot of business from smaller shops and if they close the police station, that’s another thing gone. I have heard a few people saying what is happening here is a shame.

“They say it’s not the place it used to be.”

Jane and Peter Ng, who run The Grey Horse, Main Street, described the cuts as “a joke”. Jane, 48, said: “I don’t think they should be shutting it. It’s not like we’re a really wee village and don’t need it. They have all these houses planned. We will need it more than ever.”

Husband Peter, 54, said its closure was of particular concern for the elderly population of the village.

“We do have a lot of older people and they want to go and see a police officer face to face. If you call the 101 number it goes to a centralised place and often they don’t know where you’re talking about.

“We do get some trouble around here, just the other week there was a break-in. They should definitely keep it open.”

Public outcry led the Evening News to launch a campaign against the closures, calling on police chiefs to reconsider their plans.

Balerno community council secretary Trudy Allan has signed the petition and said everyone in the village would be disappointed if it went ahead. She said: “The community council was very disappointed and I think a lot of people across all of Edinburgh will be. I know they said Balerno is only used, on average, once a day but it is important to people. We don’t want it to happen.”

Front desks earmarked for closure include Craigmillar, Corstorphine, Oxgangs, and South Queensferry. Craigmillar and Corstorphine will deliver a service via local community hubs.

Former police officer and Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Mike Crockart said station access is vital.

‘It would be missed by a lot of people’

Elizabeth Longstaff of Balerno said she thought it was important it stayed open to the public.

The 15-year-old said: “I have used it before when I have found money and other lost property. I have gone into the station to hand it in personally. It is handy having it there so it would be a shame to lose it. It’s part of the ­village and would be missed by a lot of people.”

Dale May, 37, a bar worker, believes the police-public interface is vital to community spirit.

He said: “Balerno is quiet but it still needs a police station that people can go into if they want.

“It looks like what the police are wanting to do is to centralise everything.

“Soon there will just be big police stations that you will have to go to for help.

“It is really important that we keep community policing and bobbies on the beat. But I think it is important that people have somewhere to go and see police and where they know they will be.”

Jackie Dippie, 47, a hairdresser, fears Balerno’s pensioners could suffer.

She said: “I could understand it if it was a wee village but it’s not.

“It’s a decent-sized village and looks like it’s going to get bigger. It needs the station to be open, especially for older people.

“A lot of my customers will be upset about it as I think older people like being able to talk to someone face-to-face.”