164 acres of Shackleton lands up for let

There has been mixed reaction to news of moves to let more than 150 acres at the former army base in in Ballykelly for agricultural use.

Notices were placed in local press last week, advertising 164 acres at Shackelton barracks in Ballykelly were to be let by sealed bids.

The advert stated the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister is to let for cutting or growing approximately 164 acres for the period 30/4/2012 to 30/11/2012.

The notices stated the tendered amount must be paid in advance i.e. on or before April 30, and said the highest or any bid will not necessarily be accepted.

All offers, by way of sealed bids, are to to be made to BTW Shiells in Belfast no later than 5pm on Friday, April 20.

Limavady Mayor, Sean McGlinchey welcomed the news, saying it was “a step in the right direction”.

“I think this can only be a good thing, as it’s opening the entire site and allowing opportunities to be taken,” he said.

Sinn Féin MLA Cathal Ó hOisín said: “It is important that Shackleton Barracks is given back to the community in order to allow it to be developed. I believe the huge site has the potential to be a major economic catalyst for the East Derry region and can be used for multiple use including agriculture, industry and recreation. The news that part of the estate is to be put out to tender for agriculture use is to be welcomed as a first step in bringing the area back into ownership of the community.”

Mr. O’hOisin called on all interested parties to “come together to devise a strategy that will maximise the potential of this site”.

However, SDLP Colr. Michael said he was disappointed by the news.

“If that’s the case, they are obviously not going to sell it, or long term lease it in the next 12 months if it’s let out for growing,” he told the ‘Journal’. “It’s disappointing that more use is not being made of the grounds. Limavady Council has been lobbying for years to get its hands on the land and make better use of it. There are wonderful business opportunities there for leisure. For example, we had a spectacular motor sports event there and I know cyclists and runners who would love to use it. However, there are also business opportunities, which I believe are slowly slipping away because of non-maintenance of buildings within the site, especially the hangar that is there. I know there were engineering companies who were interested - it would be ideal for engineering - and had made enquiries, but never followed up on them.”

Colr. Coyle said there were also issues surrounding contamination, “but we have never exactly been told what type or how much the costs involved would be.”

He added: “All I can is I am disappointed the site isn’t used for better purposes.”