Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 29 November 2014

PSNI slams training college 'errors'

A senior police officer has criticised a US design company, blaming it for the rising cost of Northern Ireland's new police training college.

It is understood that more than £350,000 has already been paid out to consultants for the long-delayed project at Desertcreat outside Cookstown in Co Tyrone, which was originally due to be finished in 2008.

Now, PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie has said "significant human error" by designers Perkins and Will is behind a mounting bill and time delays over the first combined police, prison and fire officer training centre in Northern Ireland.

Last month, the Belfast Telegraph revealed that two consultant firms had underestimated the overall cost of the project by tens of millions of pounds. It was originally costed at £80m, but that estimate has grown to around £135m.

"There has been very significant human error," DCC Gillespie told UTV last night.

"We are working to address that now with the design team and we're working through a bill of reductions and already identified potentially £14.5m of savings we can take out of the college programme without compromising its functionality or ethos.

"Perkins and Will have assured me that they are competent to go forward with the programme, and in fact some of the senior members of that design team have been replaced."

The DUP had considered pulling the plug on the project, but earlier this month a spokesman for the Department of Justice confirmed that the project would not go out for fresh tendering.

It is believed Finance Minister Sammy Wilson had been adamant that a new tender process should be launched as a result of the failure.

But he told UTV: "However the mistakes occurred, there must be no further mistakes which delay the project even more and risk us not having a college at all, or having the embarrassment at a time of recession of having to hand back capital money to Westminster."

Meanwhile, Health Minister Edwin Poots is also understood to be furious about the spiralling costs, as some of it may have to come from his public safety budget.

No one from Perkins and Wills was available for comment last night.

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