By Patricia Devlin
THE construction phase of Northern Ireland’s new police, prison, fire and rescue training college will create around 2,000 jobs when it begins this year, it has been said.
Planning approval for the new Northern Ireland Community Safety College, based outside Cookstown, had planning approval officially rubber stamped last week by Environment Minister Alex Attwood.
Work on the 23,000sqm campus, which will provide new teaching, training and residential facilities for the PSNI, Prison Service and the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service, is set to begin this year with a competition date of 2015.
The decision to grant full planning approval was hailed as a “huge milestone” by Justice Minister David Ford who said the construction of the £139 million college would bring a huge boost to the economy.
“This is excellent news,” said Mr Ford.
“The new Community Safety College at Desertcreat will be a facility that the three services, and indeed Northern Ireland as a whole, can be proud of.
“Not only will it provide world class academic facilities but specialised practical training areas such as a mock city centre and police station, fire house and prison, will ensure that the College will meet the collective and individual needs of each service.”
Public Safety Minister Edwin Poots, who also welcomed the news, said the Desertcreat Road facility would be a “world” leader in the delivery of multi-service training.
He said: “This type of joint facility isn’t available anywhere else in the world. Here in Northern Ireland, we are leading the way and it is something we can be rightly proud of.
The application, made by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), was submitted on June 15th last year before being passed on Wednesday last.
PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie said the college would not only be providing “state of the art, bespoke, practical and academic” facilities, but will also make the province a safer place.
She added: “This is a very exciting time for all of the three services involved and over the next few months we hope to be in a position to announce the conclusion of the procurement process and award the construction contract.”
“This in turn will create approximately 1,500 – 2,000 construction jobs which is a great opportunity not just for the local area but for Northern Ireland generally.”
Dale Ashford, Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service also voiced his delight at the planning announcement.
“Today we are another step closer in our journey towards creating a world class state of the art joint training facility and I very much welcome this announcement,” he said.
“The new College represents an investment in our Firefighters and their safety. Not only will it benefit new trainees, it will be used by every Firefighter and Support Staff member across Northern Ireland as part of their continuous life long training and development.”
He added: “It will ensure we have the best and highly skilled workforce to help protect our community.”
Mid Ulster MLAs Patsy McGlone, Ian McCrea and Sandra Overend also welcomed the milestone.
SDLP Assemblyman Patsy McGlone said: “This is excellent news to see another step towards another major investment in the Mid-Ulster area.”
“This project will not only have significant effects in terms of jobs and surpluses used, but also will have a positive impact on local businesses and possibly hotels as well.”
The DUPs Ian McCrea said: “Having lobbied for this new training centre at Desertcreat, Cookstown I am now delighted to see it getting ever closer. This project is worth a total of £140 million which will be a welcome boost to our local economy.
“Mid Ulster is long overdue a good news story and I hope the college can be a starting point for further economic growth in the constituency.”
Ulster Unionist Sandra Overend said she hoped to see work start as soon as possible.
“With this state of the art facility, our services are going to receive the very best of training in the very best of facilities. Not only will the people of Northern Ireland enjoy a better trained set of emergency services, but our local economy in Mid-Ulster will also benefit due to the construction of the College, and due to the increased number of people using our shops and services when the College opens,” she said.