Call to develop Shackelton site

East Derry MLA John Dallat has appealed to politcians and business leaders not to let the former Shackleton army barracks in Ballykelly become a "a relic of failure for the future".

Speaking during an adjournment debate at Stormont about the 900-acre site, the assemblyman said the site should have been 'gifted' by the British government in the same way that other former army bases were.

"In recent years this area has been devastated by job losses in agriculture, textiles and latterly in the electronics industry and, of course, in the construction industries where many people were engaged prior to the virtual collapse of that industry. That is now but a dream gone horribly wrong because the banks weren't controlled and speculators thought they were on a gold rush.

"The Ballykelly site has many strengths but the fundamental weakness has to be that there is no strategy. Dare I hope that after this debate we can encourage the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister and indeed the various ministers who have a role to play will support an economic task force which could be established if there is the will and the drive at government level.Among the strengths is the air strip and, of course, the City of Derry Airport in close proximity. The Derry-Belfast railway passes through the site and just imagine how important that could be if there was to be a range of industries that could utilise rail transport.

Mr. Dallat added: "The former army site at Ballykelly has so much to offer if we can create the interest, bring on board the entrepreneurs who still have money and are seeking opportunities to invest in long-term sustainable businesses that won't create fortunes overnight but have a future which is as risk-free as possible in a highly competitive world."