Belfast Telegraph

MLA slams lack of plan before military base sale begins

BY DAVID YOUNG

The failure to draw up a community-backed masterplan for a former military base before it was put up for sale has been branded "mind-boggling".

Local residents, business leaders, political representatives and other stakeholders were not properly consulted by the first and deputy first ministers before inviting expressions of interest for the Shackleton barracks site at Ballykelly, Co Londonderry, an MLA has claimed.

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

Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness have commissioned a selling agent to seek prospective buyers for the 720-acre site.

East Londonderry Assembly Member John Dallat said the "mind-boggling" move had come as a "bolt from the blue".

"This decision puts paid to any notion of a masterplan or any kind of professional assessment as how to maximise job creation," said the SDLP representative.

"There is now real concern that the site will be 'asset-stripped' of the best section."

The site, which sits on the shores of Lough Foyle, remained as an RAF station for more than 25 years after the war before being taken over by the Army.

A spokesman for the OFMDFM said no preferred use for the overall site had been agreed.

"OFMDFM believes that it would now be useful to test the market to determine the level of interest and the potential ideas and uses for the site," he said.

A spokesman for DARD said the department was still committed to moving its headquarters to a 10-acre portion of the site.

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