Ilex wound up after 13 years

Ebrington Square.
Ebrington Square.

The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister have said they remain ‘committed’ to the development of Ebrington after the company set up to oversee it and other projects in Derry was wound up.

After 13 years of operation, the doors close on urban regeneration company Ilex today, with the loss of 18 jobs.

A  sketch showcasing the plans for the Ebrington site.

A sketch showcasing the plans for the Ebrington site.

Responsibility for Ebrington now looks set to land in the lap of Derry City & Strabane District COuncil by next year, with the Strategic Investment Board being drafted in to help OFMDFM until then.

Ilex was set up in 2003 and was the brainchild of the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) and the Department for Social Development (DSD).

It was tasked to plan, develop and sustain the economic, physical and social regeneration of the Derry City Council area.

It was later given responsibility to re-develop the former Ministry of Defence sites at Ebrington and Fort George, although the latter was later transferred back to the DSD.

The next chapter must build on the progress and although a transfer cannot happen immediately, the intention that the Ebrington site will transfer to Derry City and Strabane District Council to deliver the capital works remains our preferred option.

OFMDFM spokesman

Ilex has been involved in the redevelopment of Ebrington, the construction of the Peace Bridge and the NI Science Park and the development of the city’s One Plan.

On the back of the Ilex work to set out a blueprint for Ebrington’s future Environment Minister Mark H Durkan in January granted planning permission for the regeneration of the 10.5 hectare site.

However there were numerous controversies around Ilex and its functions, and earlier this year the Journal obtained documents showing that OFMDFM accused Ilex of failing to spend millions of pounds allocated to develop Ebrington over the past five years. Ilex had responded that OFMDFM were made fully aware that they had to hand back money due to key projects not progressing due to unrealistic time frames.

OFMDFM announced back in late October 2015 that the company would be wound up on March 31, 2016.

A spokesperson for the Department of Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness said today: “We remain fully committed to maximise the potential of Ebrington and the North West and will leave no stone unturned as we drive the development and regeneration of the site for the benefit of all the local people.

“We are grateful for all the work undertaken by Ilex at Ebrington since 2003. This initial work has opened the site up for all the people of the North West.”

The spokesman added: “The next chapter must build on the progress and although a transfer cannot happen immediately, the intention that the Ebrington site will transfer to Derry City and Strabane District Council to deliver the capital works remains our preferred option which we would wish to see achieved by 2017.

“In the interim year given the need to progress development, responsibility for the Ebrington site will be returned to OFMDFM with management of the capital projects being taken forward by senior OFMDFM officials in conjunction with the Strategic Investment Board (SIB).

“The foundations established by the Ilex Board and staff will allow the department to press ahead with visible development at a greater speed delivering maximum social and economic benefits.”