Belfast Telegraph

Preferred bidder for police college

A preferred bidder has been appointed to build a police training college in Co Tyrone.

A consortium including local company Gilbert Ash and Spanish firm FCC Construccion will finalise plans for the scheme at Desertcreat near Cookstown before the Executive gives the go-ahead for construction to begin next spring.

Justice minister David Ford said it would provide a first class joint training facility for the police, prison, fire and rescue services.

"The delivery of the college is an important commitment in the Programme for Government and will provide a much-needed boost to our local construction industry with the creation of much-needed jobs," he said.

Planning permission for construction work on the site was granted in January. The 23,000 sq metre facility will provide new teaching, training and residential facilities.

The project was announced in 2004 and was originally due to be finished in 2008.

PSNI deputy chief constable Judith Gillespie said: "The new college will provide each of the services with bespoke, practical and academic facilities, that will in turn help make Northern Ireland a safer and more secure place for everyone."

She said the services would use it to come together and learn how to deal with real-life scenarios.

Health minister Edwin Poots said: "The work undertaken over the last few months has paid off and that we are now in a position where we can move to the next stage in what will be a great asset to the three services and a benefit to the local economy in Cookstown."

The original cost of the campus was estimated at £139 million. The current anticipated price is £157 million.

Sinn Fein Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy said it was a great confidence boost for the community.

"Work on the construction phase and on future service provision at the college must now be focused on ensuring that we create maximum economic and employment opportunities for hard-pressed local companies and communities - particularly the unemployed," he said.

"There is a wealth of local skill and talent in our local trade and construction sector who have suffered significantly over the past several years of economic downturn. Let's harness that skill without delay.

"We are pleased that those building the Community Safety College - from the police, prison, fire and emergency rescue services - have stayed the course with locating the college at Desertcreat."

He expressed confidence that the major development can deliver additional long-term benefits through collaboration with the Department of Agriculture's nearby campus, other government departments and local government, businesses, communities and education.

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