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NI Fire Service submit plans to build 'ambitious' £42.2m training centre


The site of the new training college at Desertcreat near Cookstown in Co Tyrone

The site of the new training college at Desertcreat near Cookstown in Co Tyrone

Michelle O’Neill

Michelle O’Neill



The site of the new training college at Desertcreat near Cookstown in Co Tyrone

A planning application for an ambitious £42.2m investment has been submitted by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) at its training centre at Desertcreat just outside Cookstown.

The application is for the latest phase in the Learning and Development Centre which opened in September 2019 - and represents the largest capital investment in the NIFRS's history.

Plans include the building of a specialist driving and road traffic collision training area, a training environment for collapsed buildings as well as a below ground rescue.

There are also plans to build a swift water rescue training facility and a "call-out village" which will include a bungalow, a semi-detached dwelling and a detached dwelling where rescue drills can be carried out.

If the application is approved construction is scheduled to begin in early 2022, with completion expected in 2024.

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the news.

"Firefighters run towards danger when others run away and it is vitally important that when they face those challenges they receive the best possible training," he said.

"If approved, this flagship project will represent the largest capital investment ever undertaken by NIFRS and further enhance the service's ability to protect the lives of all the people of Northern Ireland."

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill both spoke out in support of the Desertcreat plan.

"Ambitious projects such as this are a huge, multi-agency undertaking and I commend all those involved for their efforts so far," Mrs Foster said.

"I look forward to seeing the finished centre, which I trust will be a fitting training facility for the brave men and women who pass through its doors."

Ms O'Neill said the Desertcreat project was a "major boost" for the local economy.

"This is a significant development in an ongoing project representing both a huge investment in Mid Ulster and a good news story for the local area.

"Not only will this facility at Desertcreat improve training for the Fire and Rescue Service but it also provides a major boost for the construction sector and the regional economy.

"Most importantly, in producing the firefighters of tomorrow, it improves safety for us all."

The planning application will now be considered by Mid-Ulster Council.

NIFRS Chief Fire & Rescue officer Michael Graham said: "These plans represent a huge investment, not just in our employees, but in the safety of everybody in Northern Ireland.

"We are planning to build facilities which will mean our Firefighters are able to train in state of the art facilities.

"These will give them crucial 'real world' experience in dealing with the hazards they face while protecting our community."

Belfast Telegraph