Belfast Telegraph

Villagers demand talks over future of ex-Army base

By Donna Deeney

Community workers in Ballykelly want to meet with the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister to discuss the gifting of part of Shackleton Barracks.

The former MoD site went on the market in March this year but failed to attract a high enough offer from the private sector.

It was anticipated that the sale would generate several million pounds for Stormont. But it is understood £1.5m was the highest offer tabled, leading to the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) to once again take control on October 7.

Ballykelly Community Group chair Tina Campbell said people in the village deserve to reap some benefits for having the barracks on their doorsteps for so long.

Ms Campbell said she will seek a meeting with the OFMDFM to try and secure at least a token building from Shackleton.

She added: “When the possibility of the Ministry of Defence leaving Shackleton was raised we began corresponding with OFMDFM about the possibility of the people from Ballykelly benefiting in some way from the sale of the site, but we were continually palmed off to the MoD and vice versa.

“The Ministry of Defence have been at this site in one form or another since just after the Second World War and there is strong feeling within the village that they should have gifted the site to the community which has served them so well for so long.

“There are buildings on the site which are almost new and are in pristine condition that we as a community group could have used such as a gym and a sports hall and they been lying there going to rot since March.

“Back in March Gerry Kelly, when he was Junior Minister, said that he could not guarantee any benefits to the people of Ballykelly once it was sold, but offered to meet with us to discuss the matter. Now that the OFMDFM have full control of the site I will take up that offer.

“It is unfortunate we have been shunted from pillar to post between the Executive and the MoD and made to feel like beggars.”

A spokeswoman for OFMDFM said the failed bids “did not reflect the potential worth of the site”.

“Work is currently under way to examine the options for this site which will include an assessment of its economic potential. Following receipt of this report, we will decide if any public sector options for the site should be explored further.”

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