Belfast Telegraph

Wrightbus planning expansion on former site of tobacco giant JTI

By John Mulgrew

Wrightbus has begun making plans to redevelop the site left behind by tobacco giant JTI Gallaher after it shut its doors with the loss of 800 jobs.

The Ballymena bus maker bought the site last year. It has now submitted fresh plans to redevelop the site's carpark, to extend it further.

The firm said that the expansion will meet the needs of the whole complex, once it is developed and taken on by Wrightbus.

Wrightbus is also planning an 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' for Transport for London, 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". The decision of JTI to close down in Ballymena was announced in 2014, and was followed a year later by tyre maker Michelin's decision to close its operations in the town, with the loss of 860 posts.

Speaking at the time, Wrights Group chairman and chief executive Mark Nodder said: "Our current operations in Galgorm have become somewhat 'landlocked' in recent years, as substantial growth across the various parts of our business has progressively taken up all the land that we have owned.

"The imminent closure of the JTI facility has presented us with an opportunity to secure a substantial site, which will give us the additional space and operational flexibility we require to ensure that our future growth and development plans are not hampered by real estate constraints."

Belfast Telegraph