First look at planned new DARD headquarters

Impressive, detailed plans for the Department of Agriculture’s new headquarters in Ballykelly have been revealed.

A planning application has now also been lodged with the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council as the Department of Agriculture, under Minister Michelle O’Neill, moves closer to becoming the first Stormont department to move their headquarters to the North West.

The artist’s impression shows the contemporary building is designed to complement the architecture of the surrounding area while providing a modern working environment for DARD staff.

The plans will see four hundred staff based at the former Shackleton army base in Ballykelly by 2017.

The state-of-the-art plans include an atrium, with indoor trees, that can be used by the local community. They also include the construction of a new road leading from the main road between Londonderry and Limavady.

As a planning application was submitted, the Minister said: “Today is a key milestone in realising the £20million vision we see for DARD and the potential positive impact this move will have for the northwest.

“I am very keen that the new headquarters is viewed as part of village life and I have ensured that the building and its facilities have the potential to be used for other purposes that will benefit the local community and surrounding area.

“I am sure the 21st century design will mean it integrates well with the landscape and has a positive impact on those living and working there.”

Once approved building work is expected to begin in 2016 with staff arriving at their new offices by the end of 2017.

The Minister added: “As well as working with the statutory bodies, we have continued to discuss our plans with members of the local community group and they are keen for work to begin and jobs to move to the area so that they can start to benefit from this significant economic injection.

“My department has identified more than 1,500 civil servants who would want to move to Ballykelly and work will soon begin to match people to posts. The level of interest in this location shows the Executive has got it right when it comes to decentralising jobs.”

Gerry Lavery, Senior Responsibilty Owner for the relocation project, said: “What we are doing with the nine-acre site is very different to what we would be doing if we were building in the centre of Belfast.

“If we were replacing Dundonald House in Belfast it wouldn’t look like this. The building will b very low rise and will blend into the village. It will have natural ventilation. The atrium for people to mix is also a feature of the architecture and will have environmental benefits.”

Local Councillor Dermot Nicholl, who represents the Ballykelly area on the Causeway Coast and Glens Council, said: “This is very impressive. A lot of thought and energy has been put into the whole process. Importantly, it is a massive investment for the whole North West region. I think when people look at this they will see that, yes, DARD really are going to move in and I am confident that will act as a catalyst to encourage others for the remainder of the Shackleton site.”