Landmark moment as police mark 'topping out' of new 25m police station

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An age-old tradition was honoured as police chiefs marked a landmark moment in the construction of Blackpool’s new £25m headquarters.

A Yew tree branch was handed over as part of the ‘topping out’ ceremony, a celebration of progress on the huge project.

Clive Grunshaw makes his mark on the new police HQ with Ian Cosh

Clive Grunshaw makes his mark on the new police HQ with Ian Cosh

The skeleton of the building is now complete and contractors are busy working installing windows and internal fittings ahead of the opening next April.

The Clifton Road building will replace the current Bonny Street building, which is in a poor state of repair and costing thousands every year to keep running.

The pre-cast concrete cells block and striking three-storey office building represent a significant investment by the force, at a time when budgets are tight.

Ian Cosh, head of resources for Lancashire Police, knows only too well the importance of providing value for money.

“This is a real landmark moment,” he said.

“I’ve been keeping a close eye on the project. It marks a major investment in Western Division.

“We’ve been having regular updates on the project but up to now it’s been through the eyes of bystanders.

“To get onto the site and see what has been happening is superb.

“The scale of the building is clear now.”

Lancashire Police has come in for criticism in recent weeks following an announcement that some front counters could close.

But Mr Cosh believes the new headquarters will ensure Blackpool has a strong police presence.

He said: “We have a located here where officers have quick access to the motorway network.

“As well as a point of contact here we will be retaining a town centre presence, we will continue to provide for the people of the Fylde coast.”

The property is due to be handed over in April 2018.

It will be tested in operational conditions before staff are gradually moved from Bonny Street.

Once the move is complete, Bonny Street will be handed to Blackpool Council allowing plans to move ahead on redevelopment of the Central Station site.

Mr Cosh said: “The deal with Blackpool Council is one from which we both benefit.

“The land transfer allowed us to develop this site, which is perfectly suited to our needs.“They will get Bonny Street which will allow them to press ahead with regeneration in that part of town.”

Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire, Clive Grunshaw, was on hand when the first foundations for the police station were dug.

And he is impressed by what had taken shape.

He said: “It’s just fantastic to see the new building, what it has become.

“But what is really important is the improvements the new facilities will bring.

“It’s all about having the right workplace and that is what this new building will give the officers and staff in Western Division.

“Running costs will be reduced, that is true but it’s about the social value of the project.

“80 per cent of the investment is being made within 40 miles of Blackpool.

“20 per cent of everything we are spending is on the Fylde coast.

“We are creating apprenticeships, local employment and we are bringing policing in Blackpool into the 21st century.”

As well as receiving the Yew sapling from police officials, Mr Grunshaw, along with senior officers signed a beam in the new building.

Topping out’ is the term used by contractors to refer to the installation of the final piece of structure.

The significance of topping out is believed to date back to Scandinavia, where folklore suggested there was a wide practice of placing a tree on top of a new building to appease the tree dwelling spirits of their displaced ancestors.

In the 14th century topping out ceremonies were marked by a yew tree branch being placed at the highest point of the building, once such event being included in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer.