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Tyrone police training college plans given new lease of life

The scene at the site of the PSNI and the Fire and Rescue Service training college at Desertcreat Cookstown.INMM3913-441SR

The scene at the site of the PSNI and the Fire and Rescue Service training college at Desertcreat Cookstown.INMM3913-441SR

A team in charge of plans to build a new training college for the police and other emergency services at Desertcreat near Cookstown will recommend that the project continues.

The 210-acre site was bought by the Policing Board 10 years ago, but construction work has still not started.

The plan was put on hold in April.

The preferred bidder said it could not complete the project for less than £133m - almost £20m over budget.

There has been much speculation that the plan would be scrapped because of escalating costs, but it is understood that a programme board in charge of the project will next week say it should continue.

The initial plan was to build what was described as one of the best police training colleges anywhere in the world. That later changed to also include facilities for the fire and prison services.

It was to be a huge complex with accommodation for more than 300 people, 40 classrooms and purpose-built villages to train police officers and firemen in a variety of real life situations.

Ten years on, it is still a greenfield site.

At this stage, no other potential locations have been considered and it is understood the board will tell the justice committee next week that it believes the Desertcreat project should continue.

Escalating construction costs mean the estimated bill for building the college as initially planned would be almost £140m.

That is £26m more than allocated so the board is revising the plan - making changes to the overall design, the number of buildings, and the construction materials to be used.

Sources say more work is needed but they believe the project can be delivered close to the original budget.

The Stormont Executive will have the final say. A joint training college is a commitment in the Programme of Government and was initially endorsed by the departments of health and justice.

The two departments will have to approve any new revised business plan, and get the support of the executive for the project to succeed.

If approval is given, it is estimated that the earliest possible opening date for the college would be 2016, 12 years after the site was purchased.

 

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