Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena housing scheme to finally begin at disused RIR base

By Eamon Sweeney

Work to kick-start the transformation of the former headquarters of the Royal Irish Regiment into a shared housing scheme will get underway later this month.

After years of speculation over the future of the huge site in Ballymena, the bulldozers are set to move in.

The former St Patrick's Barracks was the starting post for scores of military careers and a key employer in the Co Antrim town from its opening in 1937.

It was used as a depot for both the Royal Ulster Rifles and the Royal Irish Rangers before the RIR moved in.

However, the Ministry of Defence property was deemed surplus to requirements in 2007 and the land was turned over to the Department for Communities (DfC) in 2011.

The Ballymena Guardian has reported that demolition work at the site will see all but two of the military buildings razed to the ground before an ambitious regeneration plan gets underway.

The Sandhurst and York buildings will be preserved for use by civic and community groups, while the old parade ground will be used as an open shared space.

DfC-appointed contractor Deane Public Works Ltd is expected to complete the demolition phase of the contract by next summer.

Director of Regional Development at the DfC, Damian Mullholland, said that "excellent progress" had been made on the project, which is being promoted as a redevelopment that will revitalise Ballymena.

"In an important first step, demolition work will shortly be getting underway to prepare the site and in the coming days, the department will be submitting planning applications for development use and roads access," he said.

"The site will see significant investment in the town and will result in a mixed housing scheme along with leisure, civic and community space."

All the proposals for the site were open to public consultation and ran from last November 28 until March 4 this year.

Anne Donaghy, chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, said that the development of the "iconic" site will be a flagship project for the entire area.

"The St Patrick's Barracks proposals are aimed at not only encouraging enterprise, but also at making maximum use of this large site's closeness to the town centre and its main commercial area. It is council's main priority in delivering our corporate plan that we grow our economy," she said. "What better way to do so than with this innovative and fresh regeneration project that will leave a legacy for generations to come?"

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