Belfast Telegraph

Wrightbus set to wheel out plans for new factory

By John Mulgrew

Wrightbus is planning a major expansion of its factory in Ballymena to include a new car park and housing development.

The bus-maker, which is one of Northern Ireland's largest manufacturers, wants to add a new huge 200,000 sq ft factory to help assemble chassis for its products.

The company, which is best known for its red 'Boris buses' - named after former Mayor of London Boris Johnson - also wants to add a car park for 600 vehicles, and has plans to build 75 new homes on the area of land at the rear of its Fenaghy Road plant.

Planners working for the company say it has occupied the current site for around 30 years and that "due to its considerable success" it has been "developed to its maximum capacity".

"This is far from ideal in terms of efficiency, and when the possibility of obtaining land adjacent to the Galgorm complex became a real prospect, they (Wrightbus) did not hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity."

Late last year, Wrights Group also struck a deal to buy the JTI Gallaher plant in Ballymena when the production line halts later this year. Speaking about the car park in a design statement, it says a new "dedicated car park" is required "that will meet the needs of the whole complex".

Planners say the company needs "more factory space to enable more operations to be carried out on the Galgorm site".

"This would greatly aid the efficiency of their operation in terms of productivity."

On the proposed housing development, planners say its main purpose "is to fund" the new factory and car park.

Aside from the factory, Wrightbus also plans on building a two-storey block for "administrative and welfare facilities".

The document says Wrightbus "have become a victim of their own success as they have outgrown the present site at Galgorm".

"In short, they need more space ... fortunately that space has presented itself in the form of vacant ground adjoining the existing complex. Wrightbus are seizing this lifeline with both hands."

Wrightbus is due to complete a total order for 1,000 of the Routemaster buses to Transport for London (TfL). North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley said he expects the Wrights Group "to be well-placed to successfully win a considerable part" of fresh bus contracts for London, over the next couple of years.

Belfast Telegraph