WORK is to begin on the new Policing College at Cookstown following revelations that the Justice Department is to fully fund the project.
In a statement to the Mid Ulster Mail, a spokesperson said the Justice Department had provided in its draft budget ‘all the capital funding’ .
Construction work is expected to begin in May next year while work on design and procurement begins next month.
The £140m college, was one of the police reforms recommended in the Patten report almost ten years ago.
And the 210-acre Desertcreat site was selected almost seven years ago.
A draft budget proposal unveiled by the department on Tuesday said the Stormont executive has agreed to provide the final £30m for the project.
The new college will also offer training facilities for the fire and rescue service and prison officers.
While Finance Minister Sammy Wilson had earmarked the College for funding in the draft budget on December 15, there had been concerns that there would not be enough cash in the Department of Health budget.
Last August it was stated that both the Department of Health, which was providing funding towards the training of the Fire and Rescue Service at the new College, as well as the Department of Justice, which is footing the bill for training the police and prison service personnel must jointly fund the project. And that if one forfeited funding, the business plan would be nul and void with the project going back to the drawing board.
However following intense lobbying by the local council and political representatives, it was revealed this week that the DoJ will fully fund the project.
SDLP MLA Patsy McGlone discovered this week through an Assembly question that the Health Minister had provided no funds for the college which raised fears that the project may be put on hold.
However in a response to a press inquiry by the Mid Ulster Mail, a DoJ spokesperson said: “The draft budget provides DoJ with all the capital funding required to deliver the public services training college at Desertcreat.
“That means that a contribution from DHSSPS for the capital investment needed for the construction of the college is not needed. Subject to agreement of a final Budget and DFP approval of the business case,”
The Mid Ulster MLA welcomed the DoJ move. “I would not be too annoyed which method is used or which department is used so long as the work is started on such a major project within the district that will have both short term business advantages and longer term policing and economic advantages,” said Mr McGlone.
Ulster Unionist Councillor Trevor Wilson said it has been a long campaign to get the college to Cookstown. “Now that the commitment from the Justice Department is there, hopefully this will bring a much needed boost to the construction industry and the economy in Mid Ulster.
“It is worth noting the commitment by the Executive that local firms would benefit from this. I would be very keen that this commitment is followed through,” he added.
However, Councillor Wilson said he understood there has yet to be negotiations over revenue costs. “After talking to the Health Minister’s office, they have confirmed that neither the Justice Department or the Department of Finance and Personnel have been in contact with him to discuss revenue costs.”
Councillor Wilson explained that if the college is to train the fire service there would have to be negotiations on costs. “This begs the question. Has the Justice Minister confirmed the fire and rescue service training will move to Desertcreat. No one seems to have asked the question about the revenue costs.”
According to the statement from the Justice Department the timeline is as follows: Design completion and procurement prequalification will begin in February 2011 and run until November 2011.
There will be a detailed procurement process leading to appointment of contractor which will run from November 2011 to April 2012 and construction of college will begin in May 2012 and be completed by June 2014.