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New fire HQ unveiled, ending five-year fiasco
FIRE chiefs have unveiled their long-awaited new headquarters, finally ending a five-year fiasco which cost the taxpayer millions.
County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service’s (CDDFRS) new HQ, in Belmont, Durham City, boasts state-of-the-art facilities and is built to cope with even the most severe emergencies.
Nearly 100 staff moved in earlier this week (Monday, September 2), drawing a veil over a reorganisation project which ended in total failure and cost the public purse nearly £500m.
But the shake-up was scrapped by the incoming coalition in 2010 and the £12.4m building has stood empty since 2008, costing the Government about £140,000-a-month in rent and fees.
In an effort to cut their losses, the Government offered CDDFRS up-front grants to aid their move in and agreed to pay two-thirds of their rent.
The workers who moved in at Belmont Business Park this week are community and fire safety and support staff and managers.
The brigade’s 999 call handlers will move early next year once a new £1.8m cutting-edge computer system has been installed. A contract has already been awarded, to Slough-based firm Airwave.
It is hoped the former headquarters site, in Framwellgate Moor, will be vacated entirely during 2014-15. The building had become outdated and the roof was beginning to fall down.
A new Durham fire station will be built at Sniperley, on Durham’s north-western outskirts, plus a new workshop and training facility at Bowburn.
John Hewitt, the brigade’s corporate director of resources, said: “It’s nice to be in. It’s been a long time coming.
“It’s taken longer than we would have wanted but it’s the right decision to move here.”
Brigade chiefs hope to use their new facilities and equipment and highly-trained staff to offer services to other public bodies across the country.
An official opening ceremony will be held in coming months.
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