New police college is hit by fresh delay blow
Northern Ireland's first police, prison and fire officer training centre – designed to become a "world leader in its field" – is expected to run almost a year behind schedule due to a multi-million pound budget underestimate.
The completion date for the college at Desertcreat, outside Cookstown, which was to be operational by the end of summer 2015, has now been pushed back to May 2016.
A multi-million pound under-estimation of building costs is believed to be the cause of the delay.
In February the Belfast Telegraph revealed that two firms of consultants – understood to have been paid £350,000 – had under-estimated the overall cost of the £135m project by tens of millions of pounds.
At the time the Department of Justice would not discuss the finances but insisted to the Belfast Telegraph that the project – which was originally due to be finished in 2008 – had not been postponed.
However, an update to the Policing Board's 2012-15 policing plan, which was released last week, revealed that the new anticipated completion of the college was now May 2016.
Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said he was "disappointed that it is going to take much longer to deliver this facility than first anticipated". The DUP man added: "I still have concerns about the viability of the project, given the continually rising costs. I think it is astonishing we have found ourselves in this situation.
"Once I became aware of the shortfall I was under no illusion that this project would take much longer to complete than first thought. But some people were in denial and burying their heads in the sand. I do hope we find a way forward without any more major headaches."
Full planning permission was granted for the college in January.
However, just weeks later it emerged that five bidders for building works came back "substantially over the available budget".
It is understood that the best price from tender was more than £30m over budget.
Work is now under way with the design team to try and keep the cost increase to a minimum.
Last month the Deputy Chief Constable said that potential cuts of £14.5m to the increased cost had been identified.
This is the latest in a long list of setbacks for the college since plans were first announced in 2004 at an estimated cost of £80m.