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Hundreds of complaints over new centre

PUBLISHED: 14:00 17 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:32 05 July 2010

SUFFOLK police was under intense pressure yesterday to ease public fears about the impact of a new investigation centre at Martlesham Heath.

Hundreds of complaints were lodged about the new centre earmarked for the police headquarters and district councillors also raised fears about the possibility of detainees wandering the streets and putting the safety of children and elderly people at risk.

SUFFOLK police was under intense pressure yesterday to ease public fears about the impact of a new investigation centre at Martlesham Heath.

Hundreds of complaints were lodged about the new centre earmarked for the police headquarters and district councillors also raised fears about the possibility of detainees wandering the streets and putting the safety of children and elderly people at risk.

But Suffolk Coastal's development control sub committee overruled the objections and passed the plans for the controversial police investigation centre.

The Chief Constable, Simon Ash, said after the meeting that he understood the public's concerns about people being released from custody but evidence proved there was not a problem and in the last 10 years no-one had escaped from police custody.

The centre is one of six to be built in Suffolk and Norfolk. There will be centres at Bury St Edmunds and north of Lowestoft where officers will question suspects about alleged offences.

The centres will replace the current outdated facilities used at Suffolk's police stations and it is expected that detainees will be held for several hours before being released.

They will be given a security escort if they have to go to court, otherwise they will make their own arrangements to leave Martlesham Heath.

Mr Ash warned that the public were overstating the perceived dangers and he was worried about possible "scaremongering" especially concerning the impact on children going to and from Kesgrave High School.

He told the sub committee: "The best location is at Martlesham Heath, it is well placed for the A12 and Ipswich and there is always a considerable police presence around the site.

"We have police stations throughout the county and we release prisoners, in proximity of schools, and there is no evidence of any problems in those localities.

"The majority of people will be questioned on minor assaults, public order offences, drink driving and relatively low crime.

"There will be the appropriate fencing and internal security that you would expect at a police station and this centre will be as secure as a police station."

Mr Ash added: "The majority of people are not arrested in the middle of the night or released in the middle of the night.

"This is not new business for us - I accept that it is a new location but we deal with arresting people day in and day out in Suffolk."

But John Kelso, a Martlesham district councillor, said that among 312 objections were some complaints from existing police officers who were not happy with the location.

Cllr Kelso said: "There will be people arrested after coming out of night clubs in Ipswich and brought here at 3am. On Friday and Saturday nights when people are expecting a relatively peaceful night and having a lie-in they will be waken by goodness knows what.

"This is a totally inappropriate location for what is a secure type building. People's fear for their safety is a real concern."

Diana Ball, the only committee member to vote against the project, warned: "I am concerned about safety. There is sheltered housing at The Paddocks and if some really dangerous person was released they could cause a danger to the residents of Martlesham Heath.''

However, district councillor Cliff Cocker, appealed for the public and councillors to respect Suffolk police. He said: "Let us give them some support and credit the constabulary with some intelligence. No responsible officer will release anyone who is considered a danger."

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