Belfast Telegraph

Former Ballymena RIR barracks set for £26m City Deal windfall

Excited: councillor Audrey Wales
Excited: councillor Audrey Wales
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

The former headquarters of the Royal Irish Regiment in Ballymena could soon be transformed into a multi-million pound science park on the back of the Belfast Region City Deal.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said £26m has been identified for the St Patrick's Barracks project, which it says "would create the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs".

The barracks was closed in 2007 after being deemed surplus to Ministry of Defence requirements.

The site, spanning 15 hectares, was gifted to the Northern Ireland Executive in 2011 and in turn handed over to the Department for Communities in 2015.

All but two of the buildings on the expansive site were razed earlier this year.

Part of the site is set to be turned into a new mixed use housing scheme, which would include 150 social and affordable residential units.

The council now believes that the £1bn Region City Deal will now unlock a large portion of the site's potential with the creation of the Industrial Inspiration and Innovation Campus (i4C).

The site is located close to Ballymena's town centre.

TUV Mid and East Antrim councillor Timothy Gaston said: "The plans for St Patrick's are really ambitious and would breathe much-needed new life into our town in the wake of the significant job losses from Michelin and JTI in recent years."

Last month Chancellor Philip Hammond confirmed a £350m Treasury commitment towards the £1bn pot.

Although £100m short of the £450m that the six eastern councils had asked for, it's thought that Stormont could at least match the sum, with a combination of local authorities, universities and the private sector helping keep the £1bn plan on track.

If realised, the full investment figure for Mid and East Antrim from the region deal would be around £80m, with The Gobbins, Carrickfergus Castle and St Patrick's Barracks site benefiting.

DUP councillor Audrey Wales said: "We are doing everything within our power to create a vibrant business and economic culture in Ballymena and across Mid and East Antrim.

"Belfast Region City Deal is a once in a generation opportunity to really drive our new industry sectors, including digital, tourism, financial and business services, and I am hugely excited by the plans for a manufacturing and skills hub at St Patrick's."

Belfast Telegraph