A TRANSFORMATION of neighbourhood policing in Barnsley is reaching one of its ‘final stepping stones’ as work steps up on the reopening of another station.

Despite the coronavirus outbreak, Hoyland’s station - which was culled as part of a sweeping cost-cutting programme in 2015 - is in the final throes of its refurbishment and will become the town’s seventh hub.

The venue, on Hoyland Road, will join existing teams at Barnsley town centre, Cudworth, Kendray, Goldthorpe, Penistone and Royston.

According to a report, the increase in neighbourhood teams across Barnsley is part of the force’s journey to deliver outstanding neighbourhood policing.

With additional officers working at core times with a ‘proactive preventative approach’, bosses hope to see a reduction in crime and deliver a higher level of service to communities, tackling long-standing issues such as burglary and antisocial behaviour.

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Chief Superintendent Sarah Poolman, Barnsley’s district commander, told the Chronicle: “The town’s policing is in a really positive position and the reopening of stations are the final stepping stones.

“The picture is positive across the board in the borough as there’s been investment, and this year represents a continuation of that. We’re aligning our services alongside Barnsley Council and the work residents will see will be done in partnership.”

The team will cover the Hoyland Milton, Rockingham, Wombwell and Darfield areas and is made up of Sergeant Rebecca Fleming, PC Anton Fretwell, PC Dan Hurst, PC Sarah Chesters and PCSOs Tony Thorpe, Malc Burke, Melanie Rowe and Shaun McDermott.

The move comes after the force announced that numbers of PCSOs across Barnsley were being reduced but they are now reversing the trend by recruiting more officers who have a wider array of powers, including all-important arrest.

Inspector Rebecca Richardson added: “The team will be working closely with partners and is eager to hit the ground running, focusing on the issues that have been raised from the community, including antisocial behaviour, shoplifting and burglaries.”

South Yorkshire Police axed its former Safer Neighbourhood Team structure in a bid to slash £8.1m from the budget in 2015 - a widely criticised decision which saw bobbies being taken out of the communities they knew and moved to Wombwell.

But a U-turn was performed following the backlash and an initial four hubs - in Barnsley town centre, Goldthorpe, Kendray and Royston - began operating in 2017, joined by officers based at Cudworth and Penistone in 2018.

Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, told the Chronicle: “The government’s accepted that there was a link between falling police numbers and rising crime, especially house burglaries and crimes associated with gangs and drugs.

“Two things are now starting to happen as a result. First, more police officers means that more places will have to be found for them to be based.

“In some parts of the county this could mean we look again at existing police buildings that may have been closed. To take one example in the Barnsley district, we will again be using the police station in Hoyland for uniformed officers.

“More police will also mean more officers for neighbourhood teams. These valuable teams were another casualty of the cuts, but they are being restored with both PCSOs - who were often all that remained of neighbourhood policing - and officers with the power of arrest.”