Health Minister Robin Swann has confirmed Armagh I’s report this week of a major step forward in proposals for the construction of a new multi-million pound fire training centre near Cookstown.
And the cost of the development – originally estimated to be in the region of £30 million – has now increased dramatically, with a £42.5 million price tag.
A planning application for the Learning and Development Centre at Desertcreat just outside Cookstown has been submitted by the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS). It is expected to go out to tender shortly.
The application is for the latest phase in the facility – which opened in September 2019 at a cost of £4.8 million – and represents the largest capital investment in NIFRS’ history.
Plans include the building of a specialist driving and road traffic collision training area, a training environment for collapsed buildings and 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.
Pending a successful planning application, construction is scheduled to begin in early 2022 and to be completed in 2024.
Minister of Health Robin Swann said: “I welcome the news that NIFRS have submitted their planning application for the development of the second phase of their Learning & Development Centre.
“Firefighters run toward danger when others run away and it is vitally important that when they face those challenges they receive the best possible training.
“If approved this flagship project will represent the largest capital investment ever undertaken by NIFRS and further enhance the Services ability to protect the lives of all the people of Northern Ireland.”
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “I am pleased that the NIFRS Learning and Development facility at Desertcreat has taken another step forward. Ambitious projects such as this are a huge, multi-agency undertaking and I commend all those involved for their efforts so far.
“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.”
Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “This is a significant development in an ongoing project which represents 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.”
Chief Fire & Rescue Officer Michael Graham added: “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.
“I want to thank the Department of Health and the Minister for their support in this crucial project and I look forward to working closely with Mid Ulster Council throughout the rest of the planning process.”