The Metropolitan Police’s much hyped, £58m move to a smaller headquarters could leave the force having to rent additional office space to accommodate all of its teams.
The force has sold its world famous New Scotland Yard office block for £370m to help meet cuts in its City Hall and government funding, and is using some of the cash to move into the disused Curtis Green building in Westminster.
When plans for the move were first announced by the Met and Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) it was claimed that the existing New Scotland Yard building in Victoria was both big for the Met’s needs.
Just this week Mayor Boris Johnson repeated the claim, describing the current building as “under-used” while the Met’s property director described it as “surplus to operational requirement”.
Renovations to Curtis Green, which will renamed Scotland Yard when it opens, include the construction of a new rear extension to help create “525 work spaces” for officers and civilian support workers.
At the same time MOPAC has authorised a revamp of Holborn police station to accommodate the Met’s legal department and the refurbishment of three floors at its Marlowe House office block to create a further 616 work stations.
However a briefing document drawn up for Stephen Greenhalgh, London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, warns that the combined space created by the projects may be insufficient to house all of the Met’s HQ functions.
The document states: “One of the original planning assumptions for the Mayor Buildings Estates Strategy and the exit of NSY was that all teams exiting NSY will be relocated within the remainder of the MOPAC estate.
“Whilst this position can be achieved in terms of available floor space, certain facilities would require further investment to maintain operational performance.”
The document continues:
“Recent developments have necessitated the need to look at the accommodation requirements of specific teams again, and occupational arrangements of key partner agencies.
“A growth bid for the specific team will require the provision of further accommodation. Studies are underway to model whether the existing MOPAC estate can meet these requirements or whether third party accommodation is needed.”
News that the Met may need to rent additional office space was described as “quite extraordinary” by Caroline Pidgeon, a Liberal Democrat member of the London Assembly and deputy chair of the Assembly’s police and crime committee which oversees MOPAC and the force.
Ms Pidgeon said: “It is quite extraordinary that in the rush to sell the police estate, the Mayor’s office don’t appear to have planned space for their police officers and staff.
“Yet more money looks set to be spent to sort out this mistake, at a time when the police face ever greater financial pressures”.
Green party AM Baroness Jenny Jones commented: “It does seem a bit ridiculous that the Mayor in his rush to sell off police buildings has left the Met with a headquarters that is too small.
“The Mayor has been very happy to talk up how much money he has made from selling off the police estate, but he should have paid more attention to the detail so Londoners wouldn’t have to foot the bill for additional office space.”
The briefing document also warns that the Curtis Green building may not be completed by the expected March 2016 finish date due to factors, excluded from the report, which arose during the planning stage.
As a result “an additional 26 weeks” have been added to the project’s schedule, meaning the building may not be fully ready for occupation until October 2016.