Ballykelly residents angered by the apparent veil of secrecy surrounding the former army base in the village claim they are being “kept in the dark” about what’s happening with its sale.
The massive army camp went on the market earlier this year, but Ministry of Defence officials remained tight lipped about the move only to reveal to the ‘Journal’, during the summer, a sale was expected to be complete by late September.
However, at least two weeks ago, the huge ‘For sale’ on the double doors at the entrance to the former Shackleton camp was removed. When asked then what was happening with the venture, a spokesperson said: “The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister ago will be making an announcement shortly with regard to assessing the potential for the future of the Shakelton barracks site.”
There have been claims a Norwegian electrical generation and aviation company was interested in purchasing the property. However, yesterday when contacted the office failed to respond by press time.
Chairperson of Ballykelly Community and Youth Association, Tina McCloskey says residents are angry because they have been told nothing and have never been consulted. The group had been hoping the MoD would gift part of the site to them, to use as a community centre, but that was ruled out by the MoD earlier this year.
“We’ve been kept in the dark about the whole move,” said Mrs McCloskey. “Everyone wants to know what is happening; who’s interested in it, who’s buying it but, whatever the reason is, we have been told nothing. People are angry. We should be told because we have a right to know what is going on our doorstep. We just hope whoever does buy it will give us something.I think we deserve it.”
East Derry SDLP MLA John Dallat claimed the site had received an offer of £1.5 million.
“This site has the potential to create hundreds of new jobs in a variety of projects. Where else would you find a 750-acre site overlooking one of the most spectacular coastlines with an airport on the doorstep and a railway running through it?,” he said. “This site is not just about Ballykelly, it affects the whole north west and its future econonic and social development.”
Mr. Dallat also claimed the OFMDFM was interested in buying the site, but that move was blocked by a civil servant. He said the local community “need to be consulted fully and given the opportunity to express their views. After all, they had to live with the army camp for a lifetime. A master plan must be drawn up and any future decision based on that”.
East Derry Sinn Fein MLA Cathal O’hOisin said: “I would be very concerend about a lack of clarity about the future of the site given it’s inherent potential and the real need within the East Derry areaa for job creation. I would be pushing the departmental officials to expediate all that can be done to make a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be doable.”