Belfast Telegraph

New police training college will be built, insists the Executive

By David Young

The new police, fire and prison service training college will go ahead despite the group behind the project advising not to proceed in the current financial climate, according to Stormont ministers.

The assessment of the steering group, made up of Stormont officials and representatives of the emergency services, came after it undertook a review of the envisaged £130m development in Desertcreat, near Cookstown in Co Tyrone.

The Stormont Executive has ultimate responsibility for deciding the fate of the project and last night ministers made it clear that they remained committed to its delivery. Building a new training college is a stated pledge in the agreed Executive Programme for Government.

An Executive statement said: "The Executive remains determined to deliver on its commitment to build the new training college for the police, fire and prison service."

The statement said reports the college would not go ahead were incorrect.

"No such decision has been made by ministers," the statement added.

"Considerable investment has already taken place at the site.

"Ministers reaffirmed that key decisions on the college are for the Executive to take and said the Programme for Government commitment will be met."

The planned new build has already been beset with years of delay and setbacks.

First proposed in 2004, it was originally to be opened by 2008 but building work has still not started.

A procurement exercise stalled earlier this year when concerns were raised over whether the project could be delivered within budget.

Earlier this week Stormont's Department of Justice outlined the view reached by the steering group.

A spokesman from the department said: "Following a detailed review carried out by the NICSC Programme Board the steering group has concluded that it would not be prudent at this stage to press ahead with the current project.

"The steering group has, however, asked for reviews to be carried out to determine what the present position means for the procurement process and secondly to review the training requirements for the three services taking account of the current budgetary climate.

"As development of the college is a commitment in the Programme for Government, any decision on its future will be taken by the Executive."

Unveiled in 2004, the college was to become a "world leader in its field" but has been dogged by controversy. More than £12m has been spent, even though no building work has been carried out. The Belfast Telegraph revealed last year two firms of consultants underestimated the cost of the project by tens of millions of pounds.

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