Minister welcomes location interest
More than 1,500 civil servants want to move to the new Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) headquarters in the North West, its minister has said.
Michelle O'Neill confirmed that officials had submitted plans for development of the Ballykelly site for approval to Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.
Building work at the former Shackleton army base in Co Londonderry is expected to begin next year, with staff arriving at their new offices by the end of 2017.
The minister said: "Today is a key milestone in realising the £20 million vision we see for DARD and the potential positive impact this move will have for the North West.
"I am very keen that the new headquarters is viewed as part of village life and I have ensured that the building and its facilities have the potential to be used for other purposes that will benefit the local community and surrounding area.
"I am sure the 21st century design will mean it integrates well with the landscape and has a positive impact on those living and working there."
She said the department had identified more than 1,500 employees who would want to move to Ballykelly and work would begin soon on relocation plans.
"The level of interest in this location shows the Executive has got it right when it comes to decentralising jobs," she continued.
Shackleton Barracks was an airfield during World War Two and remained a Royal Air Force station until 1971 when it was handed over to the Army.
Soldiers left the base in 2008.
Three years later it was given for free to the Executive by the Ministry of Defence.
The entire site covers around 720 acres and DARD is using a small part of that to build its new headquarters.
The move from Dundonald House in Belfast to Ballykelly will be phased, with approximately 350 staff taking up position in 2017 and the remainder after the rest of the construction is completed in 2020.
Work is also under way to move the Department's Fisheries Division to Downpatrick, Forest Service headquarters to Enniskillen and Rivers Agency headquarters to Loughry in Cookstown.