£26m for new buildings and equipment at DARD HQ in Ballykelly - minister reveals

The estimated cost of providing new buildings and equipment for the new DARD headquarters at the former Shackleton Army barracks in Ballykelly is £26 million, it has been revealed.

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill revealed the figure in response to a written question from East Derry MLA John Dallat at the Assembly who asked “for an estimate of the expected cost of providing new buildings and equipment for the new departmental headquarters at Ballykelly; and whether this has been provided for in the estimates”.

In her reply, Minister O’Neil said: “The estimated cost of providing modern office accommodation for headquarters staff is £26m. It follows that by using the Executive-owned site, and utilising the buildings on the site, there is potential to reduce that cost significantly. I have asked my officials to produce a business case detailing the options available at Ballykelly. The final cost of the project will be dependent upon the agreed configuration.”

Mr. Dallat also asked the minister to detail the number of civil servants expected to move to the new departmental headquarters in Ballykelly to occupy (i) full-time permanent posts; and (ii) temporary posts.

The minister said it was not possible to say how many civil servants may choose to move. “The Department has currently around 800 permanent posts in its offices at Dundonald House and Hydebank, which will be affected by the relocation of the new headquarters at Ballykelly. It is not possible at this point to predict how many temporary posts may exist at the time of relocation,” Minister O’Neill said.

Foyle MLA Raymond McCartney asked the Minister to outline benefits for the wider rural North West area resulting from her decision to relocate her Department’s headquarters to Ballykelly.

“I am confident that the wider rural area around the North West will significantly benefit from this project in a number of ways,” the Minister said, continuing: “As well as the construction jobs supported through the refit of the accommodation at the site, local businesses and suppliers in the area will benefit from a much larger customer base. The new headquarters will need to be serviced, with functions such as cleaning, catering and security services which will impact on employment in the area. I will also ensure that the development of the site benefits the local community – how that will be met will be included in the business case but I envisage, for example my Department being able to open up its conference rooms for community use. As well as that this relocation will open up employment and promotion opportunities for the people living in the local area. It will also ensure greater accessibility to DARD services for those living in the region. I believe that this relocation to Ballykelly emphasises that DARD is a Department that promotes regional economic re-balancing and is committed to the sustainability of rural communities.”