Police facility Land Forum

The municipality and the police want to realize a police facility at the border of Grasrijk. In 2019, this involved 1,250 police officers and the facility could be fitted into the existing infrastructure (see also the Wijkinfo of December 2019). In the meantime, the size of the planned facility has increased significantly. According to the latest findings, this will involve around 2,000 police staff from various departments, including the Mobile Unit, and 520 students from the Police Academy on a daily basis. Also a detention centre (for short stays), a shooting range and a training center are planned. Space is needed for 385 service vehicles and around 1,000 parking lots for staff and visitors. There is also the possibility of a ‘height accent’ with a maximum height of 45 metres (comparable with a building of approx. 15 floors) on thesouth side of the site. The police facility has no public function. So there will be no police station for filing reports and the like.

Decision
In June 2021, the Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BMA) agreed with this plan. Residents in part of Grasrijk and Bosrijk received a ‘Wijkinfo‘ from the municipality that month. The municipal council has been informed by means of a Council information letter.

(Read further below).

Oude Sliffertsestraat
To make all these developments possible, the municipality and the police want to relocate the Oude Sliffertsestraat to the outer side of the territory. Two variants have been devised for this: a western and an eastern variant. In order collect the opinion of the neighbourhood, the municipality called in a research agency. At the end of October and the beginning of November, the agency held 134 conversations with shoppers, road users and local residents.The result have been published in a report. According to the BMA, these conversations have not resulted in a clear conclusion about a preference. Therefore, it was decided this week that the Oude Sliffertsestraat will be moved to the residential area (the western variant). According to the BMA, this variant is cheaper, shorter and more environmentally friendly. Moreover, in that case, the police will have more space. Local residents have been informed about the decision via a Wijkinfo. The road can only be moved once the zoning plan is irrevocable.

Quality of life
A salient detail is that both alternatives were already presented to the neighbourhood in May 2021. However, this did not give the desired result for the municipality and the police. Over 98% of the more than 500 respondents supported the advice given by the sounding group of residents and the Board of Residents’ Association Meerhoven. They advised – indepedent from both alternatives – to first thoroughly investigate the effects on the quality of life by the arrival of the intended police facility and to seriously include the input of the neighbourhood in the investigation. Interviews recently conducted by the research agency also revealed that residents are particularly concerned about the arrival of the facility and would have liked to have been more involved in the plans. Nevertheless, in June 2021 the BMA decided that the police facility would be built without further investigation or consultation with the neighbourhood. According to the BMA, the police threatened to choose another city if the decision was further delayed.

With the most recent decision of the BMA to move the Oude Sliffertsestraat towards the neighbourhood, the earlier advice of the sounding group and the Board of Residents’ Assocation Meerhoven is again fully ignored. See the excerpt from the advice below.

Should you nevertheless decide on the location of the Oude Sliffertsestraat without further investigation, we note that moving the road to the west side of the intended police facility (close to the residential area) is not in line with the car-restricted design of the neighbourhood. This option is also inconsistent with the traffic decision you took on July 11, 2006 in relation to the ‘Knip Sliffertsestraat’ file. As a plaster on the wounds for keeping a car connection open between Zandrijk and Grasrijk various traffic measures were taken to spare the east flank of Grasrijk as much as possible from the negative consequences of a car connection. This connection was not forseen in the original plan for Meerhoven. By relocating the Oude Sliffertsestraat in the direction of the residential area, local residents will still be confronted with these negative effects without additional measures. This is why we are again insisting that the implications of the western variant and the alternatives be investigated thoroughly and with the necessary care before a decision is taken.” (Translated from source: Advies klankbordgroep politiedienstencentrum Land Forum Meerhoven, April 25, 2021)

Position
As known, both the sounding group and the Board of Residents’ Association Meerhoven are in principle positive about the realization of a police facility as outlined in the Wijkinfo of December 2019. Since then, however, the police have been making increasing demands, including a doubling of the number of police staff and students, closing the site (in combination with an extra exit on the north side) and relocating the Oude Sliffertsestraat. The police also deviate from the original plan area and the municipality apparently allows this. The great willingness of the municipality to comply with all the demands of the police is in stark contrast to the way in which the municipality has so far dealt with the input of residents. As the Board of the Residents’ Association Meerhoven, we find it unacceptable that the BMA takes hasty decisions for economic reasons, without thoroughly investigating the consequences for the liveability in the neighbourhood.

City Council
Since the BMA has so far ignored the advice of the sounding group and the Board of Residents’ Assocation Meerhoven, at the end of November we called on the City Council by letter to urge the BMA to involve the neighbourhood in the plans and to revoke the BMA’s decision. This with the aim to find a satisfying solution for all parties. Both the sounding group and the Board Residents’ Assocation Meerhoven are still open to this. In our view, this is a more attractive route than a lengthy legal process that seems to become inevitable due to the current course. In a written response, the BMA has stated that it has conducted a careful consultation process and regrets that it cannot convince us of this. We now await action from the City Council.

Follow-up
Should the City Council not intervene, then we have no choice but to use all legal means in the interest of the neighbourhood to make the BMA change their minds. Not to oppose the arrival of a police facility, but to ensure that a careful decision-making process takes place.