Belfast Telegraph

Ex-military base attracts investors

More than 40 would-be investors have signalled an interest in buying or renting a former military base in Co Londonderry, some with the promise of creating thousands of jobs.

Stormont's First Minister Peter Robinson said the number of proposals the Executive had received for its Shackleton barracks site at Ballykelly showed its potential to become a new economic hub for the north west.

The Second World War RAF base was gifted to the Executive by the MoD in 2011 as part of the Hillsborough Agreement.

After an initial abortive attempt to sell the site, last year Mr Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness commissioned a property agent to seek expressions of interest for the 720-acre plot.

Mr Robinson revealed the level of response to the Stormont Assembly during First Minister's question time.

"Over 40 expressions of interest have been created," he said.

"They range from those who are only wanting to employ one or two people on the site to those who want to employ thousands on the site.

"They range in terms of finance from those who want to rent the site to those who want to buy the site, some at very significant amounts of money.

"Some who want joint ventures, some who want trusts to take over and community organisations to have a role."

Mr Robinson was answering a question from East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell.

He told Mr Campbell that in deciding which bid to go with, the Executive would balance the value of offer placed with the economic and job creation potential of the proposal.

The DUP leader said it was possible to have more than one investor on site as some were only proposing to use part of the land.

"I think there is massive opportunity for that north west area that could be drawn out of the site," he said.

"It could become a regional hub with very significant employment opportunities."

The site, which sits on the shores of Lough Foyle, was crucial for the RAF during the war, providing one of the most westerly Allied bases in Europe for Coastal Command aircraft protecting the Atlantic convoys.

It remained as an RAF station for more than 25 years after the war before being taken over by the Army.

The cost of decontaminating the derelict site is to top £8 million.

Use of 10 acres of the site has already been identified as the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) plans to relocate its base from Belfast to Ballykelly in three years.

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