Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Training college faces fresh delay

Building work at a college which will also be a base for the training of fire officers has yet to get under way

Work on Northern Ireland's new training college for police, fire and prison officers could face a new delay after five competing firms lodged bids above the budget price.

The tenders were substantially over the available budget, members of the Assembly's justice committee have been told at Stormont.

The community safety college at Desertcreat near Cookstown, Co Tyrone, was due to open in late 2015.

An initial project for a state-of-the-art police academy on the 210-acre site was first announced in February 2004 with the development due to be ready in 2009 at an estimated cost of £80 million.

But the building work at the 23,000 sq m college which will also be a base for the training of prison and fire officers has yet to get under way, and a new hold-up looks a distinct possibility until the tendering process is finally sorted out. Up to 2,000 construction jobs are set to be created in the project.

Financial information contained in the individual bids was not disclosed at the meeting because of commercial sensitivities - the entire project was reportedly going to cost around £140 million - but a review has started to examine how the costs can be lowered.

Members of the committee were addressed by the PSNI deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie who is chairperson of the Desertcreat Programme Board, Louise Warde Hunter from the Department of Justice and Brendan Smyth, representing the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

A committee statement afterwards said detailed investigations had been carried out to identify what led to the significant difference between the anticipated costs and tenders received. Specific remedial actions had been identified and agreed with the design team consultants.

The statement added: "The committee members were advised that work is under way to identify options to reduce costs in areas which will not compromise the functionality of the college.

"Following completion of this work the outline business case will be updated and consideration will then be given to the appointment of a preferred bidder."

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