THE newly refurbished custody suite at Southend is now complete marking the end of the final phase of work to improve the police station.

The number of cells at the station on Victoria Avenue, Southend has now increased from 22 to 30 and the custody suite has been rebuilt and modernised.

The completion of the work on the custody suite is the final piece of the £9.8million project to upgrade the 1960s police station to a contemporary building fit for the needs of a modern police force.

Amongst the features the new custody suite includes are: two exercise yards; one holding room and five holding booths; a large charge desk with multiple booking-in points; a discreet booking-in desk for prisoners in sensitive or high profile cases or vulnerable detainees; two, photo fingerprint and DNA rooms; a breathalyser room; an interview suite with six interview rooms; a virtual court; a medical room; and cells and showers catering for disabled prisoners.

The original stair and walk way, connecting custody to the cells at the magistrates’ court next door have been retained.

Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh said: "The reopening of the custody suite at Southend is the final piece of the project to turn the police station into a building fit for the needs of modern policing.

"The police station is a building for us, partners and the community to be proud of and is testament to the hard work and dedication of all those involved in the project. It is changing the way we work. All concerned in this endeavour have my sincerest thanks.

"Essex Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner have a plan to providing buildings that help our officers better face the challenges posed by new and emerging types of crime. Southend police station will do just that and is good for the local people too.”

Southend’s District Commander Chief Insp Scott Cannon added: "The entire project to refurbish Southend police station demonstrates our continued commitment to provide a policing base in the borough.

"The reopening of our custody facility means the station is now fully operational and will serve the needs of all of our communities from now and for years to come.”

Roger Hirst, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said "This is an excellent example of how we can invest wisely to improve the current police estate, creating refurbished stations that support and enhance the work of modern policing.

The refurbishment of Southend police station and new custody suite, which began in June 2015, has seen the creation of a modern, open-plan working environment for officers, improvements to the exterior of the building and the upgrading of the custody facility.

The work began in June 2015 and the building temporarily closed during this time but is now open to the public from 9am to 5pm seven days a week.

The project to refurbish the station and rebuild custody was designed by Essex Police’s Estates Services design team and built by Logan Construction with the assistance of Munro Building Services and Sygma Security System.

Last year the Essex Police team behind the project won the Public Sector Sustainability Award for Best Refurbishment hosted by PSS magazine. The award recognised the project had been delivered on time, within budget and offering good value for money as well as increasing the building’s energy efficiency.