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Turkington’s £12m deal to build new DARD premises

By Margaret Canning

Co Armagh firm JH Turkington has won a £12m deal to build new Department of Agriculture premises at the former Ballykelly army base.

The Portadown-based firm will work on new headquarters for the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs at the former Shackleton Barracks in Co Londonderry.

Work is starting straight away on the design phase with the project due to employ 155 full-time construction workers when building starts in July. 

The project — which is costing £20m in total — is due to be finished in December 2017. 

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness joined Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill to announce the deal with JH Turkington yesterday. 

Around 600 civil service jobs will be moved to the site from the present DARD offices in Dundonald — the first time a government department has relocated to a rural area. 

The First Minister said: “Relocating Government department headquarters away from Belfast demonstrates the Executive’s commitment to rural communities in Northern Ireland.

“The construction of the new headquarters offers businesses, in both Ballykelly and the wider area, huge economic opportunities.

“Hundreds of civil servants will work and shop in the village which, in turn, will help create many more additional service and supply jobs as well as securing existing jobs.”

And the Deputy First Minister said the move would “build confidence” in the community in the area.  He added: “I look forward to more positive developments at Ballykelly which will benefit all the people of the north west.”

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said the appointment of Turkingtons was a major step in the project. 

“I look forward to seeing the work progress and am confident it will be ready to receive the first members of staff at the end of 2017.”

Trevor Turkington, chief executive of JH Turkington, said the firm was “thrilled” to win the contract. “It is just the type of challenge we have successfully delivered for other clients so we are very excited to be part of this major relocation project.”

The planning committee of Causeway Coast and Glens council granted planning permission to the project last month.

The department is planning for 100 staff to have started work from the site by the end of this year, with the rest moving in when the building is finished. 

Newry-based fit-out firm MJM has bought the majority of the Shackleton Barracks site. It plans to use the 621-acre space — separate to the section to be used by the Department of Agriculture — as a base for a new business fitting out airplanes. 

Another part of the site has already been sold to Northern Ireland Water.

The main 621 acre site was sold by the Northern Ireland Executive after it was given the space by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). 

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