Multi-million mix up for Joint Services College

Northern Ireland Joint Services College plans.
Northern Ireland Joint Services College plans.

A MULTI-MILLION pound mix up in the estimated cost of Northern Ireland’s first police, prison and fire officer training college may not result in the re-tendering of contracts, the MAIL understands.

Instead those heading the project have been ordered to “cut back on the stack” and replace some building materials and fittings for less expensive versions.

Its after two consultancy firms under-estimated the building costs of the £135 million world class college, set to be built at Desertcreat, by a huge £30 million.

Disagreement has broken out over how to deal with the over expenditure, but most are opposed to a new tender process which could take up to six months to complete.

A source close to the project told the MAIL that it is hoped the project will be pushed a head, but those over seeing the project are now scrambling to find ways to cut back on costs.

“Already the decision has been taken to remove the oak panels that were to be fitted inside, instead using pine,” said the source.

“As far as I am aware that kind of cost cutting will continue and hopefully significant savings can be made that way.”

The Health Minister and the Finance Minister are said to be both unhappy with the project pushing forward at the new price, and are continuing to hold talks on a way forward.

If the cost cannot be cut back a new tender process could be launched, adding further delay to the project.

Crunch talks were held early last week between PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie and members of the Policing Board, but those meetings failed to bring any resolution.

The Fire and Rescue Service, Justice Minister, Health Minister, Finance Minister and the Strategic Investment Board have also been briefed.

Planning permission for the state-of-the-art building was granted last month.

The academic campus, spread across 23,000 square feet, will provide new teaching, training and residential facilities together with associated car parking, access, landscaping and other ancillary site works.

The project is expected to be completed by 2015, and it is estimated that it’s construction could bring upwards of 2,000 jobs to the area.