Fort George bids must be ‘beneficial to North West’

Artist's impression of the former plans for Fort George as contained on the front of  a former draft Masterplan from 2007.
Artist's impression of the former plans for Fort George as contained on the front of a former draft Masterplan from 2007.

Government officials have said they cannot say, as yet, how the proceeds from any future sale of the Fort George site will be spent.

The Department for Communities was responding after being asked whether money made in the event of the site being sold would be ring-fenced for Derry or distributed as government officials see fit.

A Departmental spokesperson said it will “review how the proceeds will be allocated” if and when the site is sold.

It was announced in mid-September that formal expressions of interest were being sought from developers to assess private sector’s interest in investing in the 15-acres former military base, with a deadline set for this Friday, November 9.

In the case of a positive response, the Department is then planning a full marketing exercise to select a purchaser.

A spokesperson for the Department confirmed that any party interested in the site must prove that their plans will benefit “the city and the wider North West”.

Fort George was vacated by the Ministry of Defence 17 years ago in 2001 and acquired four years later by the Department (then named the Department for Social Development).

The entire site received outline planning permission in 2015, with proposals for housing, office, employment and education uses along with retail, cafes, bars, restaurants and associated parking.

Remediation works at the former naval base were initiated some years ago to deal with contaminants and Japanese knotweed. The final round of these works, costing £1.2m and begun in May this year, are expected to be completed within weeks.

The Department has appointed consultants to manage the eight-week long Expressions of Interest process, with those interested to be assessed on criteria including job creation potential.

A spokesperson for the Department of Communities told the ‘Journal’: “The remediation works are currently progressing as anticipated and will be completed by the end of the year to prepare the site for inward investment.

“Expressions of Interest are currently being sought from developers to clarify the private sector’s appetite over an eight week period. In the case of a positive response the Department will then proceed with a full marketing exercise to select a purchaser.”

When asked if the money made as a result of any sale will be ring-fenced for the benefit of the people of Derry specifically, or returned to the Department of Communities’ or NI Executives’ overall coffers to be allocated as they see fit, the spokesperson responded: “The site will only be disposed of to a developer if the regeneration project proposed is beneficial to the City and wider North West. At that stage the Department would review how the proceeds will be allocated.”