A multi-million pound development at the Desertcreat site in Cookstown has received planning approval from Mid Ulster District Council.
The decision means that Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) is now able to prepare for the first phase of its Learning and Development Centre, which represents a critical training infrastructure for the service and includes a tactical firefighting facility over 6 floors, as well as a building with welfare and classroom facilities and a new access road.
Chair of the Planning Committee, Councillor Cáthal Mallaghan, believes the decision signals the beginning of significant investment which will impact positively on the long-term economic growth of Mid Ulster:
“The Desertcreat site has been earmarked for this kind of development for some years and the plans which have now been approved will bring substantial employment from construction stage through to the centre’s commissioning and its on-going operation.
“The ability to consider and make this kind of decision at a local level is one of the tangible benefits of the transfer of planning powers to councils, which I believe are best placed to understand and balance the needs and development of their own districts.
“I look forward to seeing the project begin on site at the end of this year”.
Mid Ulster District Council, and the former Cookstown District Council, had driven a sustained council, community, voluntary and business sector bid to bring an emergency services’ training centre to the Desertcreat site, and the Council received an update from the Fire and Rescue Service at its meeting last night.
Speaking after the presentation on the project’s progress, Chair of the Council, Councillor Kim Ashton, said: “I welcome the news that phase 1 of the new learning and development centre will now be going ahead at Desertcreat and the modern facilities, including special breathing apparatus training spaces, are second to none. This is an important, long-term commitment to the Mid Ulster area and I look forward to watching the centre progress”.
Michael Graham, Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, NIFRS welcomed the planning approval.
“We are delighted that planning permission has been granted by Mid Ulster Council for Phase 1 of our new Learning & Development Centre at Desertcreat," he said. "This is a huge milestone in this long standing project to enhance the training facilities for our Firefighters.
"As we have seen only this week with the flooding in the North West, our Firefighters do a fantastic job serving their community and keeping people safe and it’s only right they have the proper facilities to train for a wide variety of rescue scenarios from fires, road traffic collisions and flooding to other specialised rescue incidents. The safety of the public and our Firefighters is our top priority and we look forward to work commencing on site later this year.”
Subject to meeting the conditions attached to the planning approval, NIFRS expects to begin work on site at the end of 2017 and work is expected to take one year to complete.