DSD will next Monday formally take over the management of development at the former army base at Fort George from Ilex.
A spokesperson for the department last night confirmed that the management changeover will not affect the current plans to redevelop the site as part of a wider regeneration project in Derry. A DSD spokesperson told the ‘Journal’: “The site has always been in the department’s ownership and the change in responsibility will have no impact on current plans.”
Ilex urban development company this week readvertised plans to transform the riverfront site. The proposal for mixed development planning permission includes residential, office, leisure, light industrial, education, community, retail, cafe, bar, restaurant, and other facilities. The new plans are a much scaled down descendant of the initial master plan - the ambitious proposal nicknamed the ‘Downtown Derry’ plan - which was published by Ilex in 2007 in very different economic circumstances. Despite DSD taking over, Ilex remains tasked with the job of marketing the site to potential investors.
Laurence McCullough, of Ilex, told the ‘Journal’: “Ilex’s role at Fort George will be to market the site to investors for the foreseeable future.”
But he admitted that in the current climate, the task ahead may be challenging. “As we are in the midst of a recession, private sector investment is difficult to obtain but this is something we have to look at in the context of the life span of the development framework, which is 10 to 15 years. Hopefully we are getting near the end of the economic recession as some have suggested,” he added.
The North West Regional Science Park is to commence construction on one acre of the ten acre site this June and it is hoped that the development, along with the granting of outline planning permission for the new proposals, will be a catalyst to attract investors. He added that there have been “some expressions of interest” in the site from the private sector, although all investors must be considered through a statutory public procurement process.