Community police officers will take up 45 minutes to answer calls after the surprise closure of a police station today, it has emerged.

Constable David Cotton confirmed Leytonstone police station in  Kirkdale Road will shut today during a community ward forum last night at St John’s Church Hall, in High Road, Leytonstone.

The announcement produced gasps from members of the public.

The Leytonstone policing team will now be based at Leyton Custody Centre, in Boreham Close, Leyton and Constable Cotton warned response times will suffer.

Scotland Yard confirmed the closure of the Kirkdale Road base last month, but no date had been announced until last night.

Critics to the closure say it is unjustified as it will leave a large area without a fully-functioning police station.

A contact point will be made available at Tesco, in Gainsborough Road, but no dates are yet finalised.

Making the announcement, Constable Cotton admitted the team was feeling the strain of cuts and response times would increase as a result of the move.

He said: “We recently lost two officers and a sergeant, so the team has decreased in size by a significant amount.

“The team feels short at the moment, a new sergeant is being employed but it will only be December at the earliest that one can start.

"The station closure will mean it will take longer to get down to the patch and cuts mean there aren't enough vehicles to get there so it will take around 30 to 45 minutes for us to walk to Leytonstone from Leyton."

Labour Cllr Jenny Gray said she was worried less people would report crimes as a result of the move.

She said: “The loss of a police base in Leytonstone will lower the police presence in the area and reduce the deterrent for criminals.

“It was somewhere for the public to anonymously speak to police, a contact point in Tesco or a cafe is not anonymous and I doubt people will want to be seen speaking to police in these public places.”

Katy Smith, chair of the Leytonstone safer neighbourhood ward panel, also spoken of her disappointment.

She said: “I was told that the station will remain open so it is really disappointing.

“It is ridiculous to move people away from the area they are policing when this area is having trouble with crime.

“We haven’t got the teams we used to have and we need clear contact points to speak to police.”