Stormont Executive ‘remains committed’ to training college at Desertcreat, Cookstown

The proposed Desertcreat college has been beset by delays
The proposed Desertcreat college has been beset by delays

Stormont ministers have insisted they remain committed to building a new state-of-the-art police, fire and prison service training college despite the group behind the project advising not to proceed in the current financial climate.

The assessment of the steering group, made up of Stormont officials and representatives of the emergency services, came after it undertook a review of the envisaged development in Desertcreat, near Cookstown.

But the Stormont Executive has ultimate responsibility for deciding the fate of the project and tonight ministers made clear they remained committed to its delivery.

Building a college is a stated pledge in the agreed Executive Programme for Government.

An Executive statement said: “The Executive remains determined to deliver on its commitment to build the new training college for the police, fire and prison service.”

The statement said reports the college would not go ahead were incorrect.

“No such decision has been made by Ministers,” it added. “Considerable investment has already taken place at the site.

“Ministers reaffirmed that key decisions on the college are for the Executive to take and said the Programme for Government commitment will be met.”

The planned new build has already been beset with years of delay and setbacks. First proposed in 2004, it was originally envisaged to be opened by 2008 but building work has still not started.

A procurement exercise stalled earlier this year when concerns were raised over whether the project could be delivered within budget.

Earlier this week Stormont’s Department of Justice outlined the view of the steering group.

A DOJ spokesman said: “Following a detailed review carried out by the NICSC Programme Board the steering group has concluded that it would not be prudent at this stage to press ahead with the current project.

“The steering group has however asked for reviews to be carried out to determine what the present position means for the procurement process and secondly to review the training requirements for the three services taking account of the current budgetary climate.

“As development of the college is a commitment in the Programme for Government, any decision on its future will be taken by the Executive.”