After years of speculation, budget changes and drop-outs, a brand new planning application has been submitted for a training college at Desertcreat.
It will be the third time planning permission is sought for the site, with previous plans approved in both 2005 and 2013.
Although the facility was originally designed to house trainee police, prison officers and fire fighters, the 2017 application contains only plans for “a fire station, teaching accommodation, multi-purpose training warehouse, hot-house, swift water and skid-pan facilities” - not the joint all-encompassing emergency services training facility once mooted.
Mid Ulster DUP MLA Keith Buchanan said that, while the fire service’s plans are a positive development, anyone hoping for the more ambitious plans put forward in 2005 for a joint emergency services training centre was likely to be disappointed.
A member of the Policing Board until recently, Mr Buchanan explained: “The Desertcreat site plans, initially, were very ambitious and would have been great for the area. It would have been a world class facility and it is disappointing that we won’t see that.
“Having said that, it is still a good boost for the area.”
The planning application for the site, which has been welcomed by Mid Ulster District Council chair Trevor Wilson, proposes a multi-million pound critical training infrastructure for Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service that includes a tactical fire fighting facility over six floors.
Speaking after NIFRS submitted plans for the first phase of its Learning and Development Centre, Cllr Wilson said: “This is very welcome news. While we had aspired to see a multi-agency college established in Cookstown, this nonetheless represents a substantial investment by the Fire Service and is the first step in a two-stage development process which will meet long-term training needs of the service”.
The application will now be considered by council’s Planning Committee.