Ballykelly group hopeful of centre at ex-army base

Aerial shot of the Shackleton site looking over Lough Foyle and towards Donegal.
Aerial shot of the Shackleton site looking over Lough Foyle and towards Donegal.

The chairperson of Ballykelly Community and Youth Association remains hopeful the organisation will secure space for a new community centre at the site of the former Shackleton army barracks.

Tina McCloskey, who has met officials from the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (OFMdFM), said the Association operates from a pre-fab at King’s Lane in the village.

“I am hoping OFMdFM will provide us with a dedicated building we can use as a community centre for Ballykelly. That was the wish of the Ministry of Defence; that something would be given back to Ballykelly for having the RAF and the army for several decades, going back as far as World War 11.”

An OFMDFM spokesperson said while the Department is keen to ensure the local community benefits from the development of the site, “proposals must demonstrate how they will identify and meet the needs of the Ballykelly community” and “all proposals will be assessed on the tangible benefits their proposals will deliver”.

Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness told the ‘Journal’ during a site visit in February it was “very important” the Ballykelly Community Association have a base at the site and he would be working “flat out to make sure they get it”.

The sale process for the former military base began this week. The site, where just over 620 acres are on offer, includes a range of buildings including offices, accommodation blocks, storage and hangars. The largest building, a former aircraft hangar, extends to approximately 117,920 sq ft of single span accommodation and is Grade B+ listed.

Two lots of the total site have been sold to NI Water and the Department for Agriculture, which is relocating its new headquarters to the village.

Mrs McCloskey hopes the DARD HQ relocation will encourage the decentralisation of other government jobs to the North West.

“Why should everything be in Belfast and, if they came to Ballykelly, look at the views they would have,” added Mrs. McCloskey.