CHESHIRE Chief Constable Peter Fahy has defended the force's decision to build a detention centre in Middlewich.
In a joint statement with Cheshire Police Authority chairman Peter Nurse, Mr Fahy backed the application to build custody facilities at Pochin Way.
Congleton Borough Council's planning committee granted outline planning permission to Cheshire Police Authority for the 30-cell facility based on Pochin Way last week, though the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister could still block the decision as the building does not fall into a specific category of business use.
The detention centre, one of three to be built in Cheshire, is expected to be in use in April 2005 and will house detainees from Middlewich, Winsford, Northwich, Crewe, Wilmslow and Macclesfield. They will replace the existing cells in police stations after modernising them was dismissed as impractical.
The facility will be manned by dedicated custody staff around the clock.
Mr Fahy said: 'Cheshire Police Authority is committed to delivering an effective service to meet the policing requirements of local communities.
'We are undertaking a major programme of investment and development to achieve our primary aim of making Cheshire a safer place.
'We aim to improve the effectiveness of the way we deal with offenders from the moment they are arrested to the time they appear in court and to do so we have to improve the current arrangements.
'The proposed custody facilities will provide purpose built accommodation where detainees can be held safely and securely while investigations are carried out.'
He added: 'In selecting the proposed site at Middlewich, we have been careful to assess the impact on the local community. We are convinced that the Pochin Way site offers real benefits for Middlewich, not least because of the significant increase in police presence that it represents.
'However, it is natural that people may have concerns over what happens when detainees are released. While we understand the concerns, we will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure that problems do not occur. For example, if detainees are charged with the more serious offences, or if they are likely to commit more crime, they will not be granted bail.
If they are vulnerable because of their age or medical condition, they will be taken home. Others will be collected by friends or relatives or will use public transport. For the remaining few, we will take the appropriate steps to ensure there is no opportunity to commit crime in the local area.'
The Police Authority is deciding between two preferred bidders to manage and maintain the property site.