Belfast Telegraph

Fury at amount of money wasted as Desertcreat finally axed

By Deborah McAleese

A "colossal" amount of taxpayers' money has been wasted on decade-old plans for Northern Ireland's first police, prison and fire officer training centre that are now to be abandoned.

The team in charge of the proposed facility at Desertcreat in Co Tyrone has announced that the project should not continue - almost two years after the Belfast Telegraph first revealed that the plans were on the verge of collapse due to a multi-million-pound underestimation of building costs.

Unveiled in 2004, the emergency services training college was to become a "world leader in its field". Since then more than £12m has been spent on the project, even though no building work has ever been carried out.

However, the steering group in charge of the project has now said that concerns about the current financial environment mean it "would not be prudent to press ahead" with the plans.

Paul Givan, chairman of Stormont's justice committee said the public "will be rightly outraged by this lost opportunity and colossal waste of taxpayers' money".

Mr Givan added that he will be calling those responsible "for this unacceptable position" before the justice committee to explain.

The UUP's Tom Elliott said there has been a "catalogue of errors and poor judgement in decisions taken in relation to this proposed development", which has "shown those progressing it in a very poor light".

Sinn Fein MP Francie Molly said any decision on the future of the project needs to be taken by the Executive and not by the steering group.

"It is Sinn Féin's view that this project should go ahead and that the steering group should work towards seeing it completed in the near future," he added.

The project has been dogged by controversy since it was first announced 10 years ago.

The Belfast Telegraph revealed last year that two firms of consultants underestimated the overall cost of the £135m project by tens of millions of pounds.

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