D-Day for Desertcreat as Executive gather to consider paper on Community Safety College

Plans for the Desertcreat College
Plans for the Desertcreat College

Some Mid Ulster politicians have proclaimed hopes that the Executive will save Desertcreat when they gather to discuss a “confidential” paper on the project today [Thursday].

Although others, such as Mid Ulster UUP councillor Trevor Wilson said whispers that the project is going back to drawing board “will come as no surprise to the people of Mid Ulster” amid “rumours that another facility could be upgraded to meet the needs of the Police, Fire and Prison services”.

A great deal of time and money have been invested on the promise of this new college - Trevor Wilson, UUP

News emerged last Friday that both Justice Minister David Ford and Health Minister Jim Wells had accepted the steering group’s recommendation to go back to the drawing board with the Community Safety College project.

They are due to present their joint paper on the issue to the other ministers this afternoon, but when asked what the report is likely to say a spokesperson for DOJ said they were unable to comment on “confidential Executive business”.

Last week, the BBC said: “The joint college plan is no longer economically viable. The Treasury has also said that nearly £80m of special funding may no longer be available.”

In Mid Ulster the revelations have been met with disappointment, as just last month a delegation from Cookstown travelled to Stormont to seek assurances over the project, which was supposed to have been completed by 2008.

Mid Ulster District Council chair Cathal Mallaghan said: “Only a few weeks ago I stood on the steps of Stormont with a delegation of local councillors [and] we were encouraged by the very visible support from the First and Deputy First Ministers, and the Health Minister.

“I hope that the commitment expressed then will be evident next week when the Executive considers what would appear to be some very concerning recommendations”.

Mid Ulster UUP MLA Sandra Overend dubbed the move “a bitter blow for the people of Mid Ulster”, while her party colleague, Trevor Wilson has called on the Minister to “make a clear statement” on the project, adding “the news will come as no surprise”.

“A great deal of time and money have been invested on the promise of this new college,” he added.

“If this College had been awarded somewhere 12 miles up the M1 or M2 it would have been built by now!”