A “laser like focus” will be directed at a local authority in the weeks ahead over the sale and redevelopment of a former Bedfordshire police station.
Planning permission was granted by Bedford Borough Council for a change of use for the Greyfriars site.
This would potentially enable the prime town centre plot to become a mixture of flats with a ground floor shop.
The project has been dogged by a series of frustrating delays, including the pandemic.
Now the council has been advised not to put further obstacles in the way of the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Kathryn Holloway.
The PCC is due to stand down at this year’s May elections, and would welcome progress over Greyfriars being added to her legacy.
The police station is situated between Greyfriars and Priory Street.
Its location prompted a string of bidders interested in turning it into residential development when they became aware of its possible availability.
One of the issues is maintaining an access route into the premises for future occupants of the site, without which its value would drop.
Conservative Central Bedfordshire Flitwick councillor Neil Bunyan asked the PCC at a county police and crime panel meeting: “What will the income from the eventual sale of Greyfriars be used for?”
She replied: “Apart from anything else, it’s commercially sensitive for us to make an assessment of what that value might be right now.
“But Bedford borough should be expecting a laser like focus from me in the coming weeks on the Greyfriars situation, in relation to the advice from our planning advisers.
“We’ve jumped through every possible hoop which has been presented to us to comply with the requirements of the planners.
“We’ve met all of their criteria. The planning committee unanimously approved change of use.
“I now expect us to move forward in such a way that we can reach a sale.
“I don’t expect another hurdle to be placed in my way and I will be unforgiving if it is,” she warned.
“We’ve always earmarked the revenue from Greyfriars to go towards the expenditure on custody.
“And you’ll be aware that we’re well advanced in that custody suite build (at Kempston HQ).”
The premises was put on the market by the PCC as long ago as July 2017, when she described it as “no longer fit for purpose”.
In December 2019, the change of use was secured at a borough council planning committee meeting.
Outline plans for the whole site redevelopment were due to have been considered by councillors in April, according to a report to the panel last June.
But the impact of Covid-19 further delayed progress, with “a road scheme outside Greyfriars Police Station put back indefinitely for now”, the panel was told.
Police would receive “maximum benefit” from the sale, the PCC promised, as the funding is destined to replace the force’s temporary custody suite.
Following the meeting, a Borough Council spokesperson said: “The Council has agreed to approve plans, submitted by the Police and Crime Commissioner’s office, to develop the former police station at Greyfriars subject to a section 106 legal agreement.
“We have since been advised by the Commissioner’s Office that they do not believe that agreement is affordable, and they have submitted their evidence for that claim to us today.
“We will now be submitting this to an independent advisor for assessment.”
by Euan Duncan
Local Democracy Reporter
Edited at 17:05 on 05.02.21 to include a comment from Bedford Borough Council.