DARD HQ move gains Executive approval

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Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill announced that the Executive has supported plans to relocate her departmental headquarters to the Executive-owned Shackleton Barracks site in Ballykelly.

The move will see hundreds of civil service jobs based at the former military site as part of a phased relocation, with the first jobs based there by 2017 followed by the remainder in 2020.

Minister O’Neill said : “Now that this approval has been received we will now press on with the necessary detailed design work with the intention of letting a contract to begin the building work by the end of 2015 for completion late 2017. The plan is to make the move in two phases; the first by the end of 2017 and the remainder by the end of 2020.”

She added: “Consistent with the Executive’s commitment to relocate to a rural area, this move to Ballykelly forms part of a broader programme of relocations that is planning for Forest Service being headquartered in Fermanagh and Fisheries Division in Downpatrick by June 2015 and Rivers Agency headquartered in the Loughry Campus of the College of Agri-Food and Rural Enterprise by March 2016.”

Explaining the importance of these moves, the Minister said: “Not only does this decision facilitate meeting my Programme for Government target to advance the relocation of DARD’s Headquarters to a rural location but I also expect these moves to deliver real social and economic improvement in rural areas while enhancing the identification of the Department with the rural community.”

The announcement follows recent contrary speculation, raised with the Minister at Stormont by local MLAs George Robinson and John Dallat.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill announced in November 2012 that she was to move her Department’s headquarters from Dundondald House in Belfast to the site of the former Shackleton army barracks in Ballykelly.

The move has been long awaited in the Limavady Borough, with calls from both local politicians and business representatives for more swift action to bring the jobs to the area.