Hand over Army barracks site for free
The Prime Minister Gordon Brown is being pressed to hand over Shackleton Army Barracks in Ballykelly free of charge to the Northern Ireland Executive.
The mammoth 776-acre site was vacated by the Army earlier this year and a development brief is now being prepared by the Ministry of Defence.
A number of government departments and Limavady Borough Council have declared an interest in parts of the site — but the First Minister and deputy First Minister have warned that there is no money to buy or redevelop it.
Therefore, unless the Government agrees to hand it over for free, it looks likely to end up in private hands.
Over 100 houses at the barracks have now now been put up for sale on two sites totalling 16 acres.
The revelation that the Northern Ireland Executive wants the Government to gift the site came in a written Assembly answer to a question posed by East Londonderry MLA John Dallat.
Mr Dallat asked the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister what representations it has made to the Government to transfer the former Shackelton Army Barracks in Ballykelly to the Executive.
The First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, responded: “We are pressing the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State at every opportunity to have former military sites gifted and our officials are in contact with the Ministry of Defence on a regular basis about this issue.
“Regarding Shackleton, we currently have no plans to redevelop Shackelton Barracks, but are aware of some expressed interest from the Department for Social Development, Limavady Council, Road Service and NI Railways in relation to part of the site.
“We are also aware that the Ministry of Defence recently vacated the site on June 30 2008 and are currently developing a planning brief for the site.”
Meanwhile, For Sale signs have now gone up at two sites that are part of the barracks.
One site comprises 66 houses, while the other offers 37 for sale.
Limavady councillor, Leslie Cubitt today said the houses should be sold to first time buyers.
Mr Cubitt said the current market was stale, saying: “A speculator could buy them and sit on them.”
He added: “These sites are being sold as lots, but I would hope that whoever buys them will sell them individually to first time buyers, not to speculators.
“They could be sold to first time buyers at a reasonable price, and there could be a condition put on that buyers stay in them, say for five years.
“They are good houses, first class; most of them would be semi-detached or detached houses.”
“It is important to stress that our already stretched budgets make no allowance for the purchase or redevelopment of any of the former military sites, including Shackelton. We will continue to press the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State to have further sites gifted and will report any progress to the Assembly.”