Edinburgh police may well be selling off their TARDIS-style police boxes, but their colleagues in Bournemouth are keen to re-introduce them.
Last month, Lothian and Borders Police announced that they were putting up for sale 22 of its 42 blue police boxes, which cost the force £8,477 per annum in cleaning, repair and maintenance bills and are “deemed surplus to operational requirements”.
Would-be purchasers have till midday on 31 May to place their bids.
There is no set guide price for the boxes, but successful bidders will be charged a sales fee of £100. They will then have two weeks to either repaint their acquisitions in a colour other than the current police-box blue, which will entail an application to the local council for planning consent, or remove them from their current sites. As reported byDigital Journal earlier this month, “Moving an old police box will require some effort as each weighs in at around two tonnes.”
However, Gavin Corbett, the newly elected councillor for Edinburgh’s Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart constituency, has suggested that instead of the police boxes being sold off they should be rented to local young businesspeople.
Cllr Corbett said, “There are plenty of empty retail units around town but start-up costs and rents are too high for most young people looking to get going with new ideas that they have.
“Edinburgh’s police boxes are a great feature on our streets, but many are looking unloved and under-used […] I’d much rather see a scheme where they are done up and rented […]”
In Bournemouth, meanwhile, the police are drawing up plans to reintroduce police boxes to Boscombe. The plan is for a modern police-style contact point to be erected in the town precinct, giving police a permanent presence there. This “hub” would give members of the public easy access to the police and, it is hoped, discourage any anti-social behaviour.
According to the Bournemouth Echo, PC Will Martindale outlined their plans, saying, “The Inspector would like to put a ‘TARDIS’ outside McDonalds [which] hopefully we will be able to staff fairly regularly.”
PC Martindale added that they hoped local businesses would apply for sponsorship of the “TARDIS”.
It is understood that designs for the “TARDIS hub” are currently being drawn up and will be presented to council planners in due course. Two council members – Cllr Jane Kelly and Cllr Phil Stanley-Watts – have already given their support to the proposals. Kelly, who is the council member for the Boscombe West district, told the Bornemouth Echo, “I think having the ‘TARDIS’ there will deter any anti-social behaviour by giving the police a permanent presence.”
Cllr Stanley-Watts – who represents Boscombe West – is a long-time advocate of the reintroduction of police boxes to British streets. He first raised the idea with Inspector Mark Kelly back in 2008, believing that updated versions could be used for reporting crime and would make the public feel safer in their community.
Blue police boxes of differing designs were first introduced to British streets in the 1930s. Their iconic status has been secured by the use of one of those designs in the long-running BBC science-fiction television series Doctor Who. In the show, the Doctor – currently played by 29-year-old Matt Smith – travels through time and space in what looks like a blue London police box but is, in fact, a TARDIS. While small on the outside, the TARDIS (which stands for time and relative dimension in space) is actually dimentionally transcendental; in lay terms, much bigger on the inside than the outside.
In 2002, the BBC won a long-running legal battle with London’s Metropolitan Police over who should own the trade mark of its distinctive image. The Metropolitan Police (Met) first launched their claim in 1996, after the UK Patent Office accepted that the TARDIS/police box as a BBC trade mark.
Most British police forces have abandoned their police boxes over the years since their hey-day use but, in 1997, the Met erected a new one outside Earl’s Court Tube station. The police box was equipped with CCTV cameras and a working telephone connected the public to the police. However, within three years, with funding at an end, the police box fell into disuse. Ironically – given the Met’s earlier fight with the BBC over ownership of the trademark design – with the return of Doctor Who to TV and its subsequent worldwide popularity, the Met resumed funding for its upkeep in light of it becoming a massive tourist attraction.