A North East fire brigade has completed its move into a control centre once criticised as a massive white elephant.
County Durham and Darlington Fire Service has moved into the building on the Belmont Business Park that had been intended as the home of the North East Fire Control Centre, merging all the region’s operations.
But when the project was scrapped in 2010 the site, and others like it across England, was left empty, racking up huge rents on the PFI contract. The brigade completed its move into the new centre yesterday, giving it a use more than three years after it was completed and providing the force with a more efficient and resilient 999 call handling service and more modern office accommodation for officers and corporate staff. The brigade’s former headquarters site at Framwellgate Moor came to the end of its useful life around 10 years ago and had become expensive to maintain with utility and repair costs soaring in recent years. The outdated building did not provide adequate conditions for staff to deliver modern public services.
Coun Michele Hodgson, chairman of County Durham’s fire authority, said: “It is exciting to see the headquarters up and running and it marks a significant step forward in our plans to modernise other parts of the estate including a new fire station for Durham.
“The authority received financial support from Government to help us adapt the building so that it functions as a headquarters as well as a command and control centre.
“We have had a positive impact on the local economy in the process with more than 60% of the people working on the re-fit drawn from the local labour force.”
The brigade’s chief executive Susan Johnson said yesterday: “I’m pleased that we have experienced a smooth transition and we are looking forward to working from such an excellent building, which is set to benefit the Service as well as the people of County Durham and Darlington.”