Plans to close Leyland’s police cells have taken a huge step forward with the news they’re to close for a two-week trial next month.
The 14 custody cells will be shut from Tuesday, September 13, with suspects being taken to either Preston or Skelmersdale depending on where they are arrested.
Although no decisions have been made about exactly when the custody suite will close for good, it will be no later than next April.
The cells at the station on Lancastergate will remain, but will only be used for major incidents or emergencies.
A police spokesperson said: “We are currently planning for the closure with the aim of causing as little disruption as possible to both the community that this custody area serves and also to local policing.
“A full evaluation will take place at the end of the trial so that any issues can be identified and rectified prior to the closure.
“Although the custody suite will be closed and no longer in operation 24/7, it will remain in a state of readiness should it need to be used for any planned events or major incidents.
“Clearly decisions of this nature are difficult for us to take but all the choices have been considered in detail and it is estimated that the force will save in the region of £500,000 a year from the closure of this suite.”
Lancashire Constabulary must find in the region of £42m of savings over the next four years.
Police have said the move to close the Leyland cells is linked to a force-wide decision to make fewer arrests and consider alternatives to arrest and custody as much as possible in a bid to reduce bureaucracy.
The move was widely criticised when it was announced last month, with magistrates warning it could damage local justice.
Fears were also raised that officers would be forced to spend time transporting suspects to and from cells instead of getting out on the streets tackling crime.
The closure of the Leyland cells also means losing its 24-hour office and reception, which processes all incoming cases and paperwork.
The plans have led to concerns that Chorley Magistrates’ Court will see a dramatic reduction in its workload and could even be forced to close because remand cases, which are dealt with in Chorley.
However a police spokesman insisted the plans will not threaten justice in the community and that suspects would only be transferred to Blackburn if both Preston and Skelmersdale police cells were already full.
A spokesperson said: “The public can be reassured that we are doing all we can to protect them from those intent on committing criminal offences without local policing suffering as a consequence.”