Among the wide ranging potential uses discussed for the former Shackleton army base in Ballykelly, now in the hands of the Stormont executive, is an aviation museum, a community hub and farm land, the Sentinel can reveal.
Everything from agriculture, the local community and the civil service to developing a museum and fuelling tourism were on the table when Limavady Borough Council met officials from the Stormont Executive who own the former army base in Ballykelly.
When the British army vacated the Shackleton army base, it was handed to the Office of First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) at Stormont, back in 2011.
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced her intention to move her Departmental headquarters to the site, a move that would see hundreds of public sector jobs leaving the Greater Belfast area and relocating in the North West for the first time.
Now, officials from Limavady Borough Council have met with OFMDFM officials to discuss what opportunities exist for the site.
A report presented to councillors ahead of a ‘development services’ meeting scheduled for Tuesday, October 8, 2013, read: “Development of the site is clearly being taken forward on the basis of what can realistically be developed on the lower part of the site due to the various constraints which exist and the opportunities which are more evident with the upper part of the site.”
The ‘various constraints’ at the lower part of the site likely refers to the constant drainage required in order to maintain the land there.
The report, by Director of Development at Limavady Borough Council Valerie Richmond, notes that the topics up for discussion included the relocation of the Department of Agriculture headquarters; interest from local farmers in continuing to rent some of the land; discussions with Ballykelly Community Association about a potential move there; and the possibility of an ‘aviation museum’.
Topics for discussion at the mteeting between council and NI Executive, included: “Progress by Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in relocating from Belfast to Ballykelly; Interest from local farmers and landowners who currently rent land or use land adjoining the site; Interest from the local community – this included on-going discussions within the Ballykelly community regarding the development and location of new community facilities and the potential for locating Shackleton Aviation Museum within the site;
Interest from other public sector bodies which could lead to spin-off for the leisure, conservation and tourism markets Issues surrounding pollution and contamination of the land in question Infrastructural, topological and geographical issues associated with the site.” The council report adds: “Overall this was an informative and beneficial meeting which confirmed that work and discussions were on-going.”