Control centre talks ‘positive’

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FIRE authority chiefs say a meeting with Government officials proved to be positive as they bid to create a new headquarters.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority wants to move into the building created as part of the failed project that aimed to see Cleveland, Durham and Northumbria fire service control centres merged.

Senior representatives from the authority met with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to discuss remaining legal issues in relation to the former Regional Control Centre building, in Belmont, Durham City, which has cost millions of pounds in rent for the empty building.

The authority is working with the Government in a bid to make use of the building to provide a new headquarters and control room facility, which will provide modern facilities and allow other operational station improvements to take place.

John Hewitt, the authority’s treasurer, said: “The talks with DCLG were productive and the authority has set out its remaining legal questions for DCLG to bring to a conclusion, prior to agreeing to take on the building as a new HQ and control room facility.”

Councillor Ossie Johnson, the authority’s chairman of the audit and finance committee, said: “Once we have the legal issues clarified to our satisfaction, we can put plans in place to move into the building and get on with the rest of our operational estate improvements.”

The previous Labour Government’s vision was to replace 46 fire and rescue centres in England with nine state-of-the-art regional sites. But the project was scrapped by the coalition in 2010 after a series of expensive delays.

The purpose-built centres could eventually cost taxpayers more than £430m in rent because of long leases.