Britain’s elite police firearms officers are to be trained in a new state-of-the-art weapons and tactics academy based in a disused underground reservoir in Bedford.
The £20 million independent National Firearms and Tactical Training Centre (NFTTC) will feature specialist ranges and vast studios that can be decked out to create realistic hostage, siege and terrorism scenarios.
The 200,000 sq ft centre will be constructed inside the defunct Manton Lane underground reservoir which was decommissioned by Anglian Water two decades ago. More than 80 jobs will be created during the construction phase, with a further 40 once the facility opens in January 2017.
“This will put Bedfordshire at the centre of Britain’s anti-terrorism and crime-fighting efforts while creating jobs and boosting the local economy,” said former RAF officer Andrew Young, the NFTTC’s director of marketing.
“We intend to attract officers from police forces all over the country, so we estimate demand for an extra 15,000 hotel nights and a boost in business for local pubs, shops and restaurants,” he said.
Mr Young says the facility, which will be governed by strict Home Office guidelines on safety and security, will make Bedford a national centre of excellence in firearms and tactics training.
Construction work on the Manton Lane industrial estate is expected to begin in the next few months with safety uppermost in the developers’ planning.
“It is a perfect location,’ added Mr Young. “Not only is it underground and away from residential areas, but also it has 6ft thick boundary walls making it completely safe and super-secure for members of the public. There is no question of anything accidentally leaving the site - not even the sound of firing.”