DORSET’S new police and crime commissioner has described the new facility that replaces Swanage Police Station as “the way forward.”

Martyn Underhill was speaking at the official opening of Swanage Pathway in an annexe of the Town Hall. The building has both a police and council receptionist and provides a base for the Safer Neighbourhood Team.

Mr Underhill said: “Some members of the public contacted me saying: ‘We have lost our police to Wareham’, but how many people knew where the old police station was? It would have cost over £400,000 to keep it going.

“This ... is a collaborative project and I think that’s the way forward. It’s a better location because it’s more central to the town.

“Christchurch is the next target and the council has offered us a similar facility. In addition to the police station, we would like to have an office front in the Town Hall. It increases the possibility of police contact.”

Among the services provided at Pathway are updates for victims of crime, recording of lost property, taking messages for officers, and dealing with issues over car parking, cemeteries, parks, town hall bookings, receiving payments and information about council meetings.

Visitors will also be able to use a direct telephone link to Dorset Police’s inquiry centre, where crime details will be recorded by call handlers.

Some services previously provided at the old police station move to Wareham, including document production, bail registration and surrender of firearms.

Purbeck Neighbourhood Ins-pector Tracey Baker said: “This new facility will provide the Swanage community and visitors with a shared service where they will be able to access a range of information and services linked to both police and the local authority.

“The opening of Swanage Pathway enables us to continue policing the town from a local base, with Safer Neighbourhood teams starting and completing their duties from the facility as they previously did from the police station.

“Patrol officers will continue to be based at Wareham, as they currently are, and will provide a policing response and presence in Swanage.”

Swanage Mayor Cllr Bill Trite said: “The opening of the Pathway responds to the current budgetary restraints affecting the public sector.

“Joint working between the police and council will provide an improved service to the community and neighbouring villages.”

l Swanage Pathway will be open 10am to 1pm and 2 to 3pm October to March, and 10am to 1pm, 2 to 4pm April to September. It will be closed on bank holidays.