Tenders sought for £16m MOT centre to be built adjacent to Hydebank Wood
Tenders are being sought for a new £16m MOT centre set to be built next to the Hydebank Wood Prison.
The Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) lodged an application to build the 77,000 sq ft test centre and operational depot with Lisburn City and Castlereagh Council in February.
Although still awaiting planning approval, the Department of Finance's construction procurement division has launched the process for building firms to tender for the major project on Hospital Road.
The new centre is set to be built on soon-to-be-demolished offices, which once accommodated 350 Roads Service and Rivers Agency staff.
The DVA bought the vacant site from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.
It sits next to Hydebank Prison, which houses young offenders and female inmates.
It's also surrounded by a Territorial Army reserve centre and the former Belvoir Park cancer hospital, which has been transformed into an upmarket housing development.
The test agency had also considered sites at Belfast Harbour, Montgomery Road, Alanbrooke Road, Laburnum Playing Fields and Dundonald, before settling on Hydebank.
The DVA has said the growing demand for vehicle testing has left its network of centres "no longer sustainable".
It's also set to lose its depot on Belfast's Corporation Street, which will be demolished to make way for the long-delayed York Street Interchange project.
The DVA will also need to replace facilities at Boucher Road, which will be lost after the development of a new test centre on that Belfast site.
Alongside test halls, the new Hydebank centre will see the creation of a new administrative block, with 170 workstations for DVA staff.
The demands on DVA staff were highlighted last month when it emerged that drivers were facing waits of up to 47 days due to an increase of around 15,000 applications for tests in the first three months of this year.
It has left drivers unable to secure an appointment potentially at risk of breaking the law.
The Department for Infrastructure previously warned there would be no leniency for such motorists. The PSNI has also urged drivers to act immediately.
The DVA has already opted to open some centres on Sundays during the summer. Some 3,000 vehicles were tested on three Sundays during June.
The agency's current test centre network was built around 40 years ago.
The DVA said while much has been done to maintain and modernise centres to meet the growing demand, present and future legislative requirements coupled with increasing and changing demands for vehicle tests, mean its current test centre network "is no longer sustainable".
Construction firms will have until August 9 to bid for the contract.