Fire service moves into failed £12.5million call centre

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A FIRE service is preparing to make the move into a failed call centre which lumbered the tax payer with a huge rental bill.

The £12.5million building in Belmont Business Park, Durham, cost £150,000 a month to rent after plans to turn it into a regional hub for reports of fires and accidents were ditched.

Now, it is to become the headquarters for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service as it moves from its 60-year-old offices in Framwellgate Moor, which it says have been expensive to maintain and are outdated.

Its staff will work from their new base from Monday, September 2.

Bosses say the change will be the first step in providing a more efficient and resilient 999 call handling facility alongside more modern office accommodation for firefighters and staff.

A grant of £1.8million was allocated to the service from the Government to cover the cost of the move, but its bosses had to find the cash to fit out the building and other costs, which have been disclosed.

Councillor Michele Hodgson, chairman of Durham Fire Authority, said: “The new headquarters is central to our plans to modernise other parts of the estate including a new fire station for Durham. The authority has 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.”

The service’s chief executive Susan Johnson said: “As technology has developed and the way we work has changed, we recognised that to plan for the future we needed an environmentally friendly and economically viable building. It is fantastic to see this excellent building put to good use for the benefit of the people of County Durham and Darlington.”

A new £4.5million fire station is being built to replace the facilities used by firefighters based at Framwellgate.

The centre will go on land off the A691 at Sniperley, with a training centre to be created at Bowburn and Seaham gaining an accommodation block as part of the same plans.