Controversial Ballykelly move ‘on time and on budget’ for mid-April

Northern Ireland’s Department of Agriculture’s controversial move to its new headquarters in the north-west is on schedule to see staff in its new offices by mid-April.

DAERA Deputy Secretary Colin Lewis presented his update paper at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) board meeting at the end of January.

He said the site was still on target for a March handover and added that 240 staff were expected make the move to the new site by mid-April.

The department is currently holding information sessions for staff to notify them of the specifics of the move.

Focus will soon move onto filling the remainder of the new building.

The board also discussed the lessons which had been learned from the process and Lewis added that a further review of the move will take place in 2019.

£12 million project

The board extended its appreciation to the teams involved in bringing the project in “on time and on budget”.

The new £12 million (€13.5 million) offices will be based on the 720ac former Royal Air Force and British Army base – Shackleton barracks.

The base was built in 1971 and left vacant in 2008 when it was given to the Executive by the Ministry of Defence.

The new headquarters, which will be named ‘Ballykelly House’, will see up to 600 civil service jobs relocated to the north-west.

However, unions warn many staff are unhappy about the move.

The project was commissioned by former Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill to move the department from its current headquarters at Dundonald House in east Belfast.

The project makes history as it is the first time a government department has relocated its headquarters to a rural area in Northern Ireland.

The three-storey office accommodation has been designed to be of the highest environmental standards.