Belfast Telegraph

1,000 jobs in pipeline as Shackleton Army base site sold for £1m

By Cate McCurry

Up to 1,000 jobs could be created at the former Shackleton Army base in Ballykelly after the 600-acre site was snapped up by a manufacturing company.

Newry-based MJM Group purchased the site for £1m, far below the value of the available land.

There are ambitious plans to build a private jet and rail carriage fit-out facility, refurbish a community building and construct outdoor recreation facilities

The Co Armagh company also hopes to build one of the largest solar panel plants in Europe at a cost of £60m.

Some 100 jobs will be created initially on the 621.5-acre site. However, MJM chairman Brian McConville believes there could be up to 1,000 positions on-site once the area is fully developed.

The rest of the former Army site is being used by the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for its headquarters. NI Water also has plans to develop an integrated constructed wetland.

Mr McConville, the group chair, said the plans would benefit the local Ballykelly community.

"We believe that our proposal clearly stated our initial plan was to create 100 jobs on site. However, it is my vision that at Ballykelly there will be at least 1,000 jobs on this site once it is fully developed as the opportunities that it will present are enormous," Mr McConville added.

"Our proposal also demonstrates significant benefits that will be attractive to the local community as a result of the MJM proposal to develop the site and also highlights the environmental benefits which arise as a result of this proposal."

Group chief executive Jarlath Quinn said the firm will help develop the site to establish a number of new business ventures.

He added: "(This includes) a facility to refurbish and fit-out private jets as well as having a specialist fabrication business on the Shackleton site and therefore creating significant employment in the local area."

First Minister Arlene Foster welcomed the sale of the site, which was given to the Northern Ireland Executive in 2011.

She said: "MJM plans for Shackleton include a private jet and rail carriage fit-out facility, renewable energy and the company's own IT service centre and facilities management services which will create over 100 new jobs.

"At a time when our manufacturing sector has had a number of disappointing announcements, this is a good day not just for Ballykelly but for the manufacturing sector of the wider north-west."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness added: "This investment will deliver huge social and economic benefits for local people. "

Belfast Telegraph