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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 February, 2004, 19:58 GMT
Police college set for Cookstown
Police trainees
Existing police college facilities have been widely criticised
A new police training college for Northern Ireland is to be located in County Tyrone, the Policing Board has announced.

The board made its final decision on Thursday to build the college at Cookstown.

It will be built on a 210-acre site beside a food science centre at Desertcreat on the outskirts of the town and is expected to open in 2007 at a projected cost of about 80m.

The proposal was endorsed after the Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton, put it to a full meeting of the Policing Board in Belfast.

DCC Leighton said the announcement was a "key milestone on the way to the full implementation of the Patten Report".

He said there were "many reasons" why Cookstown was chosen over other shortlisted sites in Crumlin and Nutts Corner, both in County Antrim.

"The land has already been declared surplus to requirement by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, its topography is extremely favourable for our plans, it's a large site which will allow us to be flexible and it's accessible to all parts of the province," he said.

Policing Board Chairman Professor Desmond Rea said the new college would be at the forefront of policing in Europe and the rest of the world.

Professor Desmond Rea and DCC Paul Leighton look at the blueprints
Professor Desmond Rea and DCC Paul Leighton assess the plans
"It will not simply train new recruits, but will also provide the ongoing training of police officers," he said.

"In addition, we hope it will attract trainees from around the world."

DUP Policing Board representative Ian Paisley Jr welcomed the decision.

"Northern Ireland requires a state-of-the-art college, it requires something positive about policing and I think this will help to deliver that," he said.

SDLP Policing Board member Alex Attwood said it was a "good site in a good location".

As well as training hundreds of fledgling Police Service of Northern Ireland officers, the college is expected to provide a massive economic boost for the area.

The Patten Commission recommended that a new state-of-the-art academy should be built to replace the present college at Garnerville.

Map showing the three short listed locations
Three locations were shortlisted as potential sites
Its facilities have been strongly criticised by the former Police Oversight Commissioner Tom Constantine.

Chief Constable Hugh Orde has already made it clear he wants the college to be one of the finest in the world as part of his vision to turn his force into a role model for others.

The changes to policing in Northern Ireland came as part of sweeping reforms to the service under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement peace accord.

New PSNI trainees are recruited on a 50:50 Catholic-Protestant basis and recruitment will continue under this quota system.

BBC NI security editor Brian Rowan
"The present training college has been criticised both by the Patten team and by the police oversight commissioner"

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