Northern Ireland

Department of Agriculture's Ballykelly HQ plans unveiled

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe aim of the move is to decentralise hundreds of civil service jobs outside of Belfast

The plans for a new headquarters for Northern Ireland's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) have been unveiled.

DARD is leaving its existing Belfast base in the Stormont estate and moving to Ballykelly in County Londonderry.

The aim is to decentralise hundreds of civil service jobs to outside Belfast.

Image copyright BTW Shiels
Image caption The building is to be constructed on the site of the former Shackleton army barracks

Agriculture minister Michelle O'Neill said DARD has "identified more than 1,500 civil servants who would want to move to Ballykelly".

Ms O'Neill unveiled an artist's impression of the new HQ building on the same day that her department submitted the planning application to the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

"Today is a key milestone in realising the £20m vision we see for DARD and the potential positive impact this move will have for the north west," the minister said.

Image copyright DARD
Image caption About 700 DARD posts are due to be relocated to the new site over the next five years
Image copyright DARD
Image caption Agriculture minister Michelle O'Neill unveiled the plans for the new DARD headquarters

She added that work will soon begin to match civil servants who have expressed an interest in working in Ballykelly to jobs in the new building.

"The level of interest in this location shows the executive has got it right when it comes to decentralising jobs," Ms O'Neill said.

About 700 DARD posts are due to be relocated to the new site, at the former Shackleton army barracks, over the next five years.

The jobs will be decentralised in two stages, with approximately 350 staff taking up position in Ballykelly in 2017 and the remainder moving by 2020.

Image copyright DARD
Image caption The department has submitted a planning application to the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council

More on this story