CAMPAIGNERS are battling to preserve two south Essex police stations which are set to be sold off later this year as part of budget cuts.
Westcliff police station, in Claremont Road, and Rochford police station, in South Street, are being put on the market in a bid to save £4.6million.
Both were built in 1914 and were part of their communities for the best of a century before their recent closure.
But many people consider the buildings part of their local heritage and, as neither are listed with English Heritage, fear any developer buying the properties might consider demolishing them.
Former policeman Richard Kirton, of the Wakering and District Heritage group, said losing Rochford would be an enormous waste of a beautiful and useful building.
Mr Kirton, 67, said: “I think Ispeak for most of our parishioners that it’s distressing to see these buildings are no longer police stations, but we certainly don’t want to see them knocked down.
“With the growth of Southend Airport, Rochford police station would be a magic spot for a high end hotel, because it’s got lovely character and it’s only just over a mile away from the airport, with plenty of parking spaces around the back.”
His sentiments were echoed by the leader of Rochford Parish Council, John Bond, 61, who said: “It’s part of Rochford’s heritage and when it’s gone, it’s gone, so we will fight to preserve it.”
Victoria ward councillor and Southend Labour leader Ian Gilbert echoed the concern about Westcliff station, arguing some form of community use or conversion into affordable housing would be an ideal way to preserve the building.
However, Independent Westborough councillor Martin Terry said, while in an ideal world the building would be preserved, he believed any kind of affordable housing should be a priority for the site – even if it meant demolition.
He said: “It’s not the Arc de Triomphe, is it? It’s not by any wellknown architect and doesn’t have any particularly unusual features – it’s just a usual police station.
“I hope the council can get it through so social housing can buy that land.”
One man who has experience of both buildings, however, is retired chief constable and former Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Mick Thwaites.
Mr Thwaites, 57, said: “I spent a few years at Westcliff and my early days at Rochford, and they’re both lovely buildings.
“My main position is I don’t like the closure of police stations.
“I don’t think people appreciate they send a strong message that we are policing the area and the officers serving there know the area well.
“But those stations were lovely places to work and had lots of character with strong links to the community.
“So it would be nice if they weren’t knocked down, because they’re part of the fabric and character of those communities.
“Ideally they could be used for something useful to support the community, but it would be tragic to have such beautiful buildings and nothing done with them.”