Dard move welcomed in Ballykelly

Gregory Campbell said the move is likely to create several hundred new jobs Gregory Campbell said the move is likely to create several hundred new jobs

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Politicians and public representatives in Londonderry have welcomed the Department of Agriculture's decision to move its headquarters to Ballykelly.

It will mean about 800 civil servants will be based in the village.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said it should bring a significant number of new jobs to the area.

"It would be a really, long commute for many people who currently work at the headquarters in Belfast, so I imagine several hundred jobs will be created."

Sinn Fein MLA for East Derry Cathal Ó hOisín said the move could open up further opportunities for regeneration in the area.

He called on the Minister for Transport, Danny Kennedy, to consider changes to the Derry/Belfast railway line at Ballykelly.

"The railway line already runs through the site and the installation of a spur link and rail halt would not entail a major redesign of the work that is already being under taken."

Philip Kingston, who is the president of the Roe Valley Chamber of Commerce, said the move was good news for an area that had suffered big job losses in recent years.

"Some of these jobs will obviously be new jobs," he said. "Also some people will relocate and that means new people coming into the area with good jobs and spending power."

Three-hour journey

"The news has generally brought a feel good factor," he said.

However, a leading figure in the Northern Ireland farming community, Harry Sinclair, said there could be a downside to the move.

"The difficulty I see is that high paid civil servants who communicate with government a lot will spend up to three hours a day on the road travelling, so that is going to be an additional cost to the taxpayer."

The Department of Agriculture will move from Dundonald House in east Belfast to the site of the former Shackleton Army barracks in Ballykelly by 2015.

Locals in the Derry village said it is a much needed boost to the area.

"Since the army camp closed, about 1,000 jobs have been lost in this area and that was devastating to Ballykelly, so to have these jobs relocated is wonderful," one local man said.

He added that the question remaining for many people in the village is whether many jobs will be created or if most current employees will relocate.

A local woman said businesses in the area are hoping to benefit from the move.

"It comes at a time when things were closing down so it's what Ballykelly really needed," she said.

"I work in a hotel and it will boost businesses like that too."

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