Tuesday 5 March 2024
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Nottingham

Over £20 million in taxpayers’ money spent on abandoned fire control building

More than £20m in taxpayer’s cash has been spent on an empty fire control building on the Nottinghamshire border.

The East Midlands Regional Fire Control Centre in Castle Donington was built in 2007 as part of a Labour project to merge local control rooms for the fire services of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.

But before the building could be used the project was scrapped by the coalition Government in 2010 due to spiralling IT costs.

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The taxpayer has continued to foot the bill for rent and maintenance because the Government does not own the building directly – instead it has a lease and the freehold belongs to a private company.

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And as the Government has never secured an alternative tenant, there has been no rental income to cover the ongoing costs.

Although officials insist they are still marketing the site, it has a 25-year lease, which does not run out until 2033, meaning the taxpayer could have to fork out millions more.

Figures reveal the empty base is costing more and more as time goes on.

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It’s now draining almost £2 million a year from the public purse – with £1,954,425 spent in 2020/21 on rent, rates, service charges and other bills.

In its first year in 2007, the rent on the building was £895,205 – a figure which has continued to rise ever since.

And in total, £20,467,436 has been spent on the building as of 2020/21.

The building in Willow Farm Business Park was one of nine Fire Control Centres delivered by the Department of Communities and Local Government between 2007 and 2010.

Land registry records show the building is currently owned by Equitix Fire Control IV GP Limited and Equitix Fire Control IV Nominee Limited.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) said it has disposed of seven of the sites and is actively seeking tenants for the two remaining vacant sites, including Castle Donington.

A DLUHC spokesperson said: “We’re actively seeking tenants for Castle Donington, and working to keep costs to a minimum in the meantime.”

Joe Ventre, digital campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s hard to believe that taxpayers are still picking up the bill for these fire control buildings.

“With ten years left on the lease, costs will continue to mount up if the centre cannot be rented out.

“The government must do its utmost to unshackle this costly mistake from the public purse.”

Councillor Tom Hollis (Ashfield Ind), who sits on the Nottinghamshire & City of Nottingham Fire Authority, said: “When the cost of living is going up, it does seem frustrating that money is going down the drain on something that isn’t being used.

“Somebody else could use that building and I struggle to believe that all avenues have been covered.”

A member of staff working at a neighbouring business in Willow Farm Business Park, who asked not to be named, added: “I’ve been working here for six years and I’ve never seen any activity there. We have yet to see anybody go in or out.

“We struggle for parking spaces around here and when we have parked outside the building before we got told not to go there.

 

“It’s a bit of a white elephant really, it’s just dead money.”

Following the scrapping of the regional fire control plan, several emergency services in the region pushed on with their own separate operation and building sharing plans to save money.

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In 2018 Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service entered into a project with Nottinghamshire Police to build a new joint headquarters at Sherwood Lodge, Arnold, which opened last month.

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