Villagers urged to ‘let their voices be heard’

Villagers in Ballykelly are urged to “let their voices be heard” in a bid by the local community association to secure new premises in the former Shackleton army base.

Since the Ministry of Defence vacated the former army barracks, Ballykelly Community & Youth Association has campaigned for a space there.

Association chairperson, Tina McCloskey says current premises, a prefab hut at the top of King’s Lane, won’t last forever, and is restrictive in what events can be held there. For example, during the winter months the football pitch can’t be used as it doesn’t have floodlights.

“We need a central location, somewhere accessible for everyone, where we can hold events suitable for everyone,” Tina told the ‘Journal’. “We’ve had the prefab 10 to 12 years now, and it has a limited life span. We know it won’t last forever.”

The association has lobbied local politicians and the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) about securing space at Shackleton. They’ve been told to show OFMDFM how they could sustain a space at the site, and how many users they would have and what their needs would be. To establish that, the association is conducting a feasibilty study, a simple, short survey asking residents what their needs and wants are.

To date, the survey has yielded “plenty of responses”, according to Ms McCloskey.

“People have to let their voices be held,” she said.

Ms McCloskey said the association has its sights set on one building - a former dining hall - and believes it would make a great difference to their activities. However, Ms McCloskey is also mindful of the relocation of Department of Agriculture offices to the base.

“We’re not quite sure where they’ll go and how space they’ll take, so we’ve been looking at other buildings too,” said Ms McCloskey.

In the meantime, the association’s “next step” is the feasibility study.

“The space in the camp would be ideal for us, and we are very hopeful. It’s one of our dreams,” she said, adding such a move could generate employment through a cafe, creche or luncheon club.

“Ballykelly deserves something back. We lived with the RAF and the army for years, so we deserve something in return,” concluded Ms McCloskey.

Hard copies of the survey are available throughout the village, and can also be accessed online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/QQJSTNL

For information contact Tina at 075232244858.