A PETITION against a police chief's decision to sell the first number plate issued to the county has gathered over 850 signatures.

Retired police constable Alan Matthews started the online petition after he found out that the 'AB 1' licence plate was up for auction.

Police enthusiasts have lambasted the decision to sell the plate, which has traditionally been used on the staff cars of Worcestershire's Chief Constables.

West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) John Campion claims the sale will enable him to invest in frontline policing.

Mr Matthews, aged 69, who worked for West Mercia Police from 1985 to 1994, said: "It's a piece of police heritage that shouldn't be sold off.

"It was the original number that the chief had. I just think that there's other ways the PCC could save money.

"I'm getting quire ratty about it. When you have been in the police you see how much waste there is.

"It's a sad thing that people in the UK have so much history but don't think much of it."

Jon Cherry, the director of regplates.com, thinks the plate will sell for between £225,000 and £275,000.

He said: "We have sold similar plates recently at this level and the market for high quality original issue number 1 plates is very strong.

"The buyers of these are intent on having only the best and only this plate will suffice!"

Mr Campion said his priority is use the assets at his disposal to make West Mercia a safe place.

"The prospect of a chief constable or any public servant using a private number plate belongs in a time gone by, both for security reasons and public expectation," he said.

"Therefore a considered decision has been made to market ‘AB 1’ and any sale proceeds will be reinvested towards frontline policing in West Mercia."

He acknowledged the history behind the plate but said it had not been used for around six years.

A spokesman for Mr Campion said he was not selling anything else apart from the number plate.

Vehicle registration was introduced in 1903 and it is believed 'AB 1' was first issued to Worcestershire's Chief Constable Herbert Sutherland Walker in 1908.

To sign the petition go on https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/keep-ab1