Completion of DARD relocation now 2029

An artist's impression of the new Department for Agriculture headquarters at Ballykelly.
An artist's impression of the new Department for Agriculture headquarters at Ballykelly.

The Department for Agriculture has confirmed that it could now be 2029 before all 600 employees transferring to its new Ballykelly headquarters are in place.

Under the new proposals, the target date for having all 600 jobs on site has now been pushed back by several years.

The original plan developed back in June 2014 had proposed 700 staff relocating on to the former Shackleton army base in County Derry, but this has since been reduced to 600. The Department said that this was a direct result of a range of external factors, including a Voluntary Exit Scheme for civil servants.

In response to questions submitted by the ‘Journal’, a DARD spokeswoman said: “In the original plan 350 posts were to relocate in Ballykelly by the end of 2017, when the first phase of construction was completed, but the overall reduction in staff numbers means that it is now planned to have a minimum of 250 posts in the new HQ when it opens in 2017.

“The original target date for the completion of the full staff relocation to Ballykelly was 2027, with the first phase of staff being in post when the building opened at the end of 2017. This is consistent with the Minister’s wishes for a transitional approach so that no current staff are forced to move. After further detailed analysis it is now proposed to extend the overall plan to 2029 in order to ensure business continuity, but the Department fully intends to resource Ballykelly as quickly as possible.”

There are currently 2,500 full time equivalent staff working for DARD across the North, 40 of whom have transferred to the North West in advance of the headquarters relocating.

In terms of the likelihood of new jobs among the 600 posts for County Derry, the DARD spokeswoman said: “The majority of the 600 posts in Ballykelly will be filled by existing NI Civil Service staff who currently work in DARD or staff who live in the North West and transfer from other Departments. However over time it is anticipated that recruitment may be required to fill future vacancies.”

She added: “DARD staff have already been surveyed on a number of occasions to determine whether or not they wish to transfer. In addition, staff across the rest of the Northern Ireland Civil Service have also been surveyed to determine if they wish to take up a post in Ballykelly.”

Speaking on the overall project she added: “The relocation to Ballykelly is on target. There are currently 40 staff working in temporary accommodation in the North West as part of an early move with a further 60 staff due to relocate by the end of 2016.”