The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) has got the go ahead to build its new three-storey headquarters in Ballykelly.
Planning permission for the 8.7 acre site was granted today by Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council Planning Committee.
Welcoming the news, Minister Michelle O’Neill said the decision was a significant step in her department’s relocation programme.
She said: “I am delighted we’ve got approval to start building our new modern headquarters on the former Shackleton army barracks in Ballykelly.
“We will now appoint a building contractor and hope to see construction work begin at the site in the summer with the three-storey building ready for new staff at the end of 2017.
“Today’s news is a vital step towards achieving our goal of a £20million investment in relocating public sector jobs to the north west as well as an economic boost to traders, businesses and the wider community.
“I hope the building will become part of village life so have ensured it is designed with facilities that can be opened up and used by the local community. It will complement the established and distinctive surroundings while providing a modern working environment for staff. The open plan offices will also offer them stunning views of Binevenagh and the Sperrins, and across Lough Foyle to Inishowen.”
The move from Dundonald House in east Belfast to Ballykelly will begin next year with the first staff taking up position by the end of 2017.
The Minister added: “Work has already begun on plans to relocate staff and as well as identifying staff who want to move to Ballykelly, my department has already permanently relocated a number of people in the north west, as part of an advance relocation group. The level of interest in this location is extremely encouraging and I have no doubt will make a big difference to people living in the north west.”
DARD’s strong agricultural history has influenced the design of the state of the art building which will be framed by bronze cladding sitting on a base of old stone walls making it look as if the development has been placed on a series of agricultural walls left from the past.
“I believe both the design of the new building and DARD’s relocation to the north west is an opportunity to embrace the future,” Minister O’Neill said.