A derelict hi-tech fire control centre in Castle Donington is set to cost taxpayers £45 million.
The centre, which has already cost taxpayers at least £18 million, was scheduled to be the hub for fire services in the Midlands – including Derbyshire and Leicestershire. The idea was scrapped by the coalition government in 2010. The three-storey building, in Willow Farm Business Park, was one of nine centres nationally and was meant to serve the fire services of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “Due to the terms agreed by the previous administration from 2007, we’re unable to sell the regional fire control centres until their leases expire which means taxpayers continue to pay for the costs of maintaining these empty buildings.
“We’ve successfully rented out five of the original centres and are in discussions with potential tenants for the remaining four centres. We’ve also been able to reduce some of the costs linked to the ongoing maintenance of these sites.”
The site has a 25-year lease and has been empty since its completion in 2007. Government figures show it has cost £1.8 million a year in rent and maintenance.
Five of the regional hubs have been rented out, but Andrew Venables, from letting agency GVA, admits finding a tenant for the Castle Donington site is proving to be the “most challenging”.
He said due to the specialist equipment and location of the 30,000 sq ft building it would only suit certain types of businesses, such as data firms or other 999 services.
He said: “We have had interest from three or four potential tenants over the years but for whatever reasons they have fallen through.
“The building has been offered to all blue light services in the region but none of them are in a position to move in. It’s certainly the most challenging of the sites we’re dealing with but I’m sure we can find a tenant.”
In June 2017 the BBC reported a telecoms company was interested in taking on the lease in Castle Donington.
The building lease runs out in 2032/2033. It is currently owned by the Control Centre Limited Partnership – with its registered office at 26 New Street, St Helier, Jersey.
It has been reported by the marketing company working for The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) the empty building still has a £6,000 espresso machine in situ which DCLG says are "a landlord's fixture and do not belong to the department".
Jonathan Isaby, political director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Across the country the debacle surrounding the creation of regional fire control centres wasted hundreds of millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money and left us with nothing to show for it except empty buildings and hollow excuses.”
Derby North Labour MP Chris Williamson, who is shadow minister for Fire and Emergency Services, said: "Creating regional control centres was controversial at the time but the theory was a good one, offering greater capacity and standardisation across the service.
“There’s no doubt there were a few teething problems but by the time they had been ironed out the coalition government abandoned the project, believing they could find other opportunities for the lease. Now that clearly hasn’t happened and it’s wasting everyone’s money.”