BITTERNE police station will be closed within three years as cash-strapped police chiefs attempt to claw back hundreds of thousands of pounds, the Daily Echo can exclusively reveal.

Discussions are already underway to sell off the building and the prime piece of land it sits on – and move officers into a fire station just up the road to save money.

Although no final decisions have been made detectives and uniformed officers currently based in the Bursledon Road station could be set to share facilities at Hightown fire station in the latest joint venture by the two authorities.

It comes just a year after Shirley police station faced the axe and their officers relocated to a building on the site of Redbridge fire station on Redbridge Hill.

That move has been hailed a success by Hampshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes, who is responsible for the changing face of policing in the city as he battles to save £25m over the next two years and who believes it can be repeated in Bitterne.

The unique partnership working – the first of its kind in the country – has also been heavily praised by the government, whic has awarded Mr Hayes £1.5m to further develop the join working initiative with Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The announcement comes as Mr Hayes unveiled his latest strategy for Hampshire Constabulary’s police estate for the next four years, which aims to reduce the total running costs of what is left of the buildings owned by the force by up to £3m a year.

He first commissioned a full estates review in 2011, which resulted in slashing what was then an £80m bill by more than half through closing down stations and selling off unwanted or underused buildings owned by the force.

Mr Hayes insists that while the officers might be moving they will not be leaving the area. Instead the money the plan will free up will be ploughed back in to reinforcing the policing frontline.

The idea is supported by John Apter, chairman of Hampshire Police Federation, who believes that a police force of the 21st century does not need stations on every high street.

Although no firm agreement has been made Hightown fire station is the preferred location for Mr Hayes and his estates team.

James Payne, estate strategy and delivery director, said: “We are stepping away from owning everything and this is a continuation of that.

“We are in discussions about the move from Bitterne and at the moment Hightown is our primary target.

“Central government are very keen and are using us as a national lead on this.”

Mr Apter said: “There are emotional and practical arguments when it comes to losing police stations.

“The emotional argument is that police stations hold a lot of memories, certainly for police officers and the public have an emotional attachment to them, too.

“But in reality people do not use them like they used to, so rather than have a prime location in the high street why not have a base out of town or use shared services. If doing that saves some money and stops us losing more officers then we welcome and support that every time. It has got to be buildings [going] before people.”