Published: 10:21, 25 July 2021
| Updated: 10:23, 25 July 2021
Multi-million pound plans to upgrade Ashford police station have been delayed by Brexit and the pandemic, bosses say.
Contractors started work on the Tufton Street site in June 2019 after safety concerns were raised about the cladding on the building.
They initially thought the project would take 18 months but now hope the scheme will be finished by next April.
Once complete, a new entrance will open in Church Road and a number of 'specialist functions' currently in Maidstone will switch to Ashford.
“The refurbishment is progressing well with full occupation expected within this financial year," a police spokeswoman said.
"Covid-19 and Brexit have presented challenges but the team have continued and progressed well, complying with the government guidelines and resequencing the project programme where possible to minimise disruption, but to continue with the programme as closely as possible."
The project is being paid for from Kent Police's capital reserves and bosses say much of the planned external work has now been completed, including the demolition of the former entrance ramp.
Deputy chief officer Ian Drysdale added: "Once the refurbishment works are completed, the use of the police station will not only include a much-improved working environment for officers, but it will allow us to relocate a number of specialist functions to the site that are currently based at the former Kent Police headquarters in Maidstone."
The police station was built in 1968, and boasted facilities including six floors, custody cells and a secure parking yard.
Problems were first reported in 2006, when lumps of concrete began to fall from the outside of the building, leaving steel reinforcements exposed.
In January 2015, scaffolders put up a protective fan around the building, and chartered surveyors from Collier Stevens were called in to review the options.
They found the external cladding was unsafe, but said there was no problem with the structural integrity of the building.
It posed the question for police as to what to do with the station, with rumours it could be knocked down and relocated.
But in 2018, Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Scott announced the plan to upgrade the station.