The former army base in Ballykelly has been sold for £1 million to a Newry-based manufacturing firm with ambitious plans to create hundreds of jobs.
MJM group says it will initially create 100 jobs in Ballykelly but believes the potential is there to create at least 1,000 jobs on the massive site overlooking Lough Foyle.
MJM Group, who specialise in the refurbishment of cruise liners, ferries, yachts and all kinds of public buildings and which operates internationally, were among seven bidders for the site, which extends to 621.5 acres.
MJM Group Chief Executive, Jarlath Quinn, said they planned to develop the site by “establishing a number of new business ventures such as a facility to refurbish and fit our private jets as well as having a specialist fabrication business on the Shackelton site and, therefore, create significant employment in the local area”.
Mr Quinn said other business ventures under serious consideration included “the creation of one of the largest solar panel plants in Europe with the development of a 60MW solar farm at a cost of £60million”.
The Shackleton site is also where the new DARD headquarters will be located, and where film production company Shackleton Studios was based for a period last year. Mr Quinn said the Group “could also continue to facilitate the use of the site by film crews and would accommodate other business proposals from interested parties to help further develop the site to help achieve its full potential”.
The site includes a range of buildings including offices and accommodation blocks. The largest building, a former aircraft hangar, extends to approximately 117,920 sq ft and is Grade B+ listed.
Ballykelly Youth and Community Association have been hoping, since the site was gifted to OFMDFM in 2011, there would be a space for them as their prefabricated hut on the outskirts of the village is nearing the end of its lifespan.
Chairperson Tina McCloskey said, should they be granted a building on the Shackelton site, it would be “fantastic”. It now appears that will happen as, according to deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, part of MJM’s proposal was its commitment to providing significant community benefits, including a refurbished community building and outdoor recreation facilities.
“The site will now be accessible and become an important part of community life. The combination of private investment alongside DARD’s new headquarters bringing 600 jobs, will be the economic injection the North West needs,” said Mr McGuinness.
Brian McConville, the Group Chairman, said the vision was for at least 1,000 jobs on the site once it was fully developed “as the opportunities that it will present are enormous”.
“Our proposal also demonstrates significant benefits that will be attractive to the local community as a result of the MJM proposal to develop the site over the next number of years and also highlights the environmental benefits which arise as a result of this proposal,” said Mr McConville.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “At a time when our manufacturing sector has had a number of disappointing announcements, this is a good day not just for Ballykelly but for the manufacturing sector of the wider North West.”