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Land formerly owned by Wrightbus attracts investors

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Wrightbus was bought by the industrialist Jo Bamford last year.

Wrightbus was bought by the industrialist Jo Bamford last year.

Jeff Wright

Jeff Wright

Mid and East Antrim council chief executive Anne Donaghy

Mid and East Antrim council chief executive Anne Donaghy

Wrightbus was bought by the industrialist Jo Bamford last year.

Forty acres of land formerly owned by Wrightbus and now owned by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has attracted the attention of four major investors.

Chief Executive of the council Anne Donaghy said the interest was "encouraging" and included a "variety of proposals".

She said the parties covered sectors including manufacturing, renewables and education sectors.

At a special council meeting last month, members agreed to accept the sealing of the transfer of the land at Lisnafillan.

Pending the signing of the transfer deed, the council will move to begin the process for expressions of interest in the site.

Mayor Councillor Peter Johnston said: "These lands will be crucial in securing more jobs for our people and the growth of our economy in Mid and East Antrim.

"I am pleased to see the progress which has been made in the transfer process and it is very positive news that we have already shown by a number of potential investors.

"The transformation of the Lisnafillan lands will be a significant and historic boost to Mid and East Antrim's long tradition of creating a sustainable economic future and landscape for all our citizens."

The land at Lisnafillan had been argued over during negotiations between the Wright family and the company's eventual new owner, Bamford Bus Company, last year.

In a compromise shareholder Jeff Wright, whose father Sir William Wright co-founded the company, then agreed for the 40 acres to be transferred to the people of Ballymena through an arrangement with Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

The land is understood to be worth around £700,000. The transfer had been held up due to negotiations over conditions, including a stipulation that the land would not be used for housing, but must instead be used to further economic development.

Speaking at the time of the initial deal for the sale of Wrightbus out of administration to Bamford Bus Company last year, Jeff Wright said he was gifting 40 acres of "family-owned farmland" to the council as a legacy for the people of Ballymena in recognition of their contribution over 70 years to the service of Wrightbus.

"This legacy gift is a tribute not only to my father, his father before him, and the Wright family members, but most importantly it is a tribute to the generations of workers who helped build a proud manufacturing tradition in Ballymena. It is my true wish to see this legacy used for the purposes of expanding manufacturing and benefiting our local community."

DUP councillor Gregg McKeen, who was involved in discussions over the deal, said Sir William Wright CBE's contribution to the economy would live on through the site.

Belfast Telegraph