Safety centre to close as PSNI stops funding

Fire service and police stage a reconstruction of a road traffic collision at Belfast's Risk Avoidance and Danger Awareness Resource'(RADAR) centre.
Fire service and police stage a reconstruction of a road traffic collision at Belfast's Risk Avoidance and Danger Awareness Resource'(RADAR) centre.

A £1m safety centre in Belfast is to close after just three years as the PSNI has said it can no longer afford to pay for it.

The Risk Awareness and Danger Avoidance Responsibility centre (RADAR) has been used to teach thousands of children and young people about road, fire, home and transport safety. It houses a life-size model street, bus and train stops, police station and a courthouse.

The facility first opened its doors in 2015 and is believed to cost about £500,000 to run, with police acting as the primary funder.

But PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has said that, due to budget pressures, he has been forced to withdraw funding for the project.

He added that it was “not appropriate” for police to continue as sole funder, as it placed an “unreasonable financial burden” on the PSNI budget.

Mr Hamilton told BBC News NI that the facility should be paid for on a cross-departmental basis.

He also claimed that the lack of a functioning government at Stormont had hindered attempts to secure the long-term funding for RADAR.

“Responsibility for the centre should rest with a more appropriate government department,” he said.

The chief constable said that if he had not made the decision to break the lease at the privately owned facility last week, the PSNI would have been financially liable for the project for another five years “without any assurance of government support”.

“It would have been financially irresponsible of me to do anything else,” he added.

Correspondence between Mr Hamilton and the civil service regarding the centre – obtained by the BBC – showed that the Department of Justice had offered to fund the centre for up to £400,000 for 2018/19.

The department said this was to “allow time to properly consider longer term funding as well as new management structures and accountability issues”.

However, the chief constable felt the one-year offer provided “insufficient assurance” to sustain the centre.

Mr Hamilton said the PSNI is now preparing for the decommissioning of the site, which it will vacate by the end of the financial year.

It is understood that all 12 staff employed at the centre will be redeployed.