DEARA HQ Move: £600K paid for an acre of land

A whopping £600,000 was paid for 0.4 hectares of land in Ballykelly as part of a project to relocate the headquarters of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, it has emerged.

Friday, 26th August 2016, 3:00 pm

The ‘Journal’ can also reveal approximately £3 million has been spent on the project in the last five years.

Of the money spent so far on the government project, £600,000 was spent on approximately one acre of land for a second entrance. Work at the former Shackleton army base in the village is scheduled to begin next month. Government officials say the construction programme remains on target for completion by December 2017.

“From June 2011 to end July 2016, approximately £3.0m has been spent on DAERA HQ relocation to Ballykelly,” said the spokesperson.

While the new access road arrangements have been approved by the Planning Service, work is not due to commence until the final design is agreed with TransportNI, said the spokesperson, who also revealed: “The department has secured access over approximately 0.4 hectares of land at a cost of £600k.”

Sinn Fein councillor Sean McGlinchey expressed shock at the money spent on the project pre-construction and questioned if paying £600,000 for 0.4 hectares of land was “best value for money”.

“While decentralisation of jobs from Belfast is to be welcomed, and it’s great to see a government department coming to the area, you have to question what the £3m has been used for,” he said. “It seems like a lot of money before construction has even started, especially paying £600,000 for 0.4 hectares of land.

“I would like to see a breakdown of the £3m to see what it has been spent on so far and I will be seeking to clarify this.”

The DAERA spokesperson added that a detailed staffing plan that identifies what posts will relocate to Ballykelly, and when, is currently being considered.

Around 600 employees are expected to work from the new Ballykelly heaquarters.