Decision soon on revised Desertcreat training plans

The original plans for Desertcreat envisaged all three services having their training facilities there
The original plans for Desertcreat envisaged all three services having their training facilities there

Redrawn plans of the Desertcreat state-of-the-art joint training college for police, fire and prison services are expected to be taken to the NI Executive, it has emerged.

The revised plans, which were shown to Policing Board members last Thursday, propose training to be split across three different sites.

The latest plans recommend that the Fire and Rescue Service should be located in a £44m purpose-built complex in Co Tyrone.

Meanwhile, it suggests the PSNI’s current training centre, Garnerville in east Belfast, should be upgraded.

DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said: “I think it will go to the Executive at their next meeting for a decision. Optimistically I think it will go ahead if there is overall agreement.”

Mr Craig, a Lagan Valley MLA, said the proposals viewed by Policing Board members had been put forward by a programme board in charge of the Desertcreat project. Earlier this year it emerged that the original £134 million Desertcreat project was no longer economically viable after a £53m funding package from the Treasury was withdrawn due to a failure to build the proposed joint college within a stipulated time frame.

The Office of First and Deputy First Minister then asked for a revised business case, setting out preferred options for future training needs.

According to the BBC, the plan suggests that the PSNI should also be allocated about £20m to refurbish its existing training facilities and the Northern Ireland Prison Service would be given funding for training at Maghaberry and Magilligan prisons.

Mr Craig said: “There has been a growing understanding within the Policing Board that the needs for the police have diminished massively due to budget cuts and as their ability to recruit is very limited now.”

He said moving the Fire and Rescue Service training to Desertcreat “makes a lot of sense and economically it also gives employment in an area which needs it such as Cookstown”.

A spokesman from the Department of Justice said: “Decisions on the way forward for the NI Community Safety College have yet to be taken and, ultimately, will be a matter for the Executive following consideration of the outline business case.

“A draft OBC has been prepared by the programme board setting out a range of options, including development at Desertcreat and refurbishment of the existing training estate of the three services.

“The draft OBC has yet to be finalised or formally signed off by the accounting officers of the three services. After consideration by the steering group, recommendations will be made to the Justice and Health Ministers.

“When content, the ministers will jointly make a recommendation to the Executive by the end of November.

“There is currently no agreement from HM Treasury to access previous college underspends.

“A joint training college would, therefore, have to be funded from within the NI block allocation in future spending rounds.”