Health Minister moves ahead with design and early works on Desertcreat

Desertcreat site near Cookstown Co Tyrone.' Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Desertcreat site near Cookstown Co Tyrone.' Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Mid Ulster MP, Francie Molloy, has welcomed today’s news that Health Minister, Michelle O’Neill is moving on to the design and early works stage for Desertcreat Community Safety College (NICSC).

The Minister visited the site at 4pm this afternoon (Wednesday, Sept 28) to announce the appointment of Hamilton Architects as the design team.

Speaking during the site near Cookstown, she welcomed the progress made, saying: “The appointment of Hamilton Architects as Design Team for the early works is a positive step forward in progressing the development of the NIFRS training facility at Desertcreat.

“The total forecast capital investment for Desertcreat is approximately £45million.

“I have recently met local elected representatives from the surrounding area and I am particularly struck by the ongoing local support for the project.”

The design for the new Community Safety College - was originally intended to also house trainee police officers - now includes a fire station, teaching accommodation, multi-purpose training warehouse, hot-house, swift water and skid-pan facilities.

The minister added: “Together with the enabling works scheduled to start on site, the appointment of the Design Team further demonstrates the continued commitment to build a fit for purpose training facility for the Fire and Rescue Service. This complex project has been a long time in the planning and not without difficulty, and it is fantastic to now see tangible progress on the ground.

“The training centre, once completed and operational, will provide a facility in which our firefighters can learn the skills they need to keep the public and themselves safe.”

Mr Molloy MP said: “This project is now beginning to take shape and will be a very welcome opportunity for many local businesses, especially those in the construction sector.

“The project has experienced many changes from the initial stage but I commend the Sinn Fein team within the executive and in particular Michelle O’Neill for ensuring this project has not been left sitting on a shelf somewhere in Belfast.”

The Mid Ulster MP said he and Cllr John McNamee met with the minister in June to emphasise the need for this project to move forward quickly.

Cllr McNamee explained: “It is essential that major public projects such as this are brought into the west and it is good to see it in Mid Ulster.

“This is a central constituency with links across the north and I know that it will provide a great opportunity for the Fire & Rescue Service to build for the future.”

Dale Ashford, Interim Chief Fire & Rescue Officer said: “The safety of the public and our fire-fighters is our number one priority at emergency incidents.

“We invest heavily in training our fire-fighters throughout their careers, equipping them with the practical fire-fighting and rescue skills needed to tackle the range of emergency incidents we attend – fires, road traffic collisions, flooding and other specialist rescue incidents.

“Our current training facilities are no longer suitable for our future training needs and a new dedicated training facility is required.

“We welcome the appointment of the design team to begin to create that bespoke fire and rescue training facility at Desertcreat which will meet our training needs today and for the years ahead. We thank the Health Minister and local representatives for their continued support. We look forward to working with Hamilton Architects to make the vision a reality.”