Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has said it will now be full steam ahead after the
Northern Ireland Executive backed her plans to move her department headquarters to Ballykelly.
Hundreds of jobs are expected to be moved to the north west as a result of the decision by the Sinn Fein Minister at the helm the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The shift is expected to provide a massive boost for the businesses and the economy within the Limavady Borough and surrounding area, which is still reeling from the closure of a number of businesses, including the Seagate factory and the loss of 930 jobs back in 2008.
Speaking after the Executive backing was secured for the DARD relocation- the final hurdle to making it a reality- Minister O’Neill said:
“We will now press on with the necessary detailed design work and the process of awarding a contract to begin the building work by the end of 2015 for completion late 2017.
“The plan is to complete the move in two phases; the first by the end of 2017 and the remainder by the end of 2020.”
Ms O’Neill said that the move to County Derry “was consistent with my commitment to relocate to a rural area”.
She said: “This move to Ballykelly forms part of my broader programme of relocations.
“The Forest Service is being headquartered in Fermanagh and Fisheries Division in Downpatrick by June 2015.
“The Rivers Agency will be headquartered in the Loughrey Campus of the College of Agri Food and Rural Enterprise by March 2016.
“This decision will mean that I meet my Programme for Government target to decentralise DARD’s headquarters to a rural location.
“However, 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.”