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Planning approval granted for £40m facility to revolutionise firefighter training

Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) has welcomed planning approval from Mid Ulster Council for the final phase of its Learning & Development Centre (LDC) outside Cookstown.

The £42.2 million investment is a Northern Ireland Executive flagship project and represents the largest capital build ever undertaken by NIFRS. The facilities will revolutionise how NIFRS trains and develops its people to protect everyone in Northern Ireland and further professionalise the service.

Plans for Phase Two include the building of a specialist driving and road traffic collision training area, a training environment for collapsed buildings and below ground rescue, a flood water rescue training facility and a “call out village” which will include a bungalow, a semi-detached dwelling and a detached dwelling. These will provide Firefighters with ‘real life’ complex training experiences and will complement the existing Tactical Firefighting Facility on the site which opened in September 2019 as Phase One of the project.

Minster of Health Robin Swann said: “Planning approval by Mid-Ulster Council for the development of the second phase of Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service Learning & Development Centre is hugely welcome.

“We regularly see the bravery and commitment of Firefighters in the line of duty. They work tirelessly, often in the most extreme of circumstances to protect and ensure the safety of our communities. It is vitally important that Firefighters can avail of the best training to equip them for the challenges they may face.

“This flagship project is the largest capital investment ever undertaken by NIFRS and further enhances the Service’s ability to protect the lives of everyone in Northern Ireland.”

First Minister Arlene Foster said: “We are another important step closer to opening the doors on a world-class firefighter training centre which can simulate real life and death scenarios. The new facilities will enable a transformation in how training is delivered as part of a significant shift in the modernising of the service. This will assist in strengthening the protections for our brave firefighters who put their lives on the line in the service of others every day and also develop enhanced skills and techniques that will improve the safety of the whole of our community.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “I welcome this significant investment in Mid Ulster, which will provide a real boost for the regional economy and the people of the area.

“Securing planning approval represents real progress in this hugely important project. The new centre will benefit us all; through the continued development of a first class fire and rescue service that protects our whole community. It will also ensure our firefighters have access to the training experiences and facilities they deserve.”

Chief Fire & Rescue Officer Michael Graham said: “This is a really important milestone in this ambitious project, representing a huge investment, not just in our employees but in the safety of everyone in Northern Ireland. The delivery of Phase 2 has been achieved through years of planning and hard work by many people. This approval brings us a step closer to delivering the world class training facilities our Firefighters deserve and I commend everyone involved in the project to date.

“I want to thank Mid Ulster Council for working closely with us throughout the planning process despite the challenges of COVID – 19. Thanks also to the Department of Health and our Minister for their continued support for this essential investment in public and Firefighter safety.

Carmel McKinney, OBE, Chair of NIFRS Board said: “On behalf of the NIFRS Board, I welcome the planning approval of the next chapter of this visionary facility. This is the key cornerstone in the creation of a safe and effective Fire and Rescue Service capable of responding not just to today’s challenges but the challenges we face in the future as well.

“This facility is an investment in lifelong learning, as it will transform the learning experience of our people. We will ensure we continually have the best people trained to the highest standard to be there when our community needs us most.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2022 and to be completed in 2024.

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