The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Northern Ireland is moving its headquarters to Ballykelly, Co. Derry.

DARD is relocating from Dundonald House in east Belfast.

The move will be carried out in two phases with 350 staff taking up position in 2017 and up to a further 300 posts could transfer in 2020 on phase 2, DARD said.

Northern Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill, who was in Ballykelly viewing demolition at the new site, said her Department’s new multi-million pound headquarters will bring an economic boost to Ballykelly.

“Relocating DARD headquarters to Ballykelly offers huge economic opportunities for businesses in both the town and the wider North West.

“The building work, which we plan to start next year, will also bring a welcome boost to the local construction industry, local businesses and the rural economy,” the Minister said.

Minister O’ Neill said she was encouraged by the latest figures which show that more than 1500 civil servants have expressed an interest in working for the Department of Agriculture at Ballykelly.

DARD is “on target for the site clearance works to be completed by the end of April, when a planning application will be submitted for approval,” the Minister said.

Present at the demolition site was deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness who welcomes “this £20m investement which will provide a significant injection to the North West.”

DARD also has plan to relocate several other government departments and agencies.

DARD’s Fisheries Division will be relocating to Downpatrick, Co. Down, the Forest Service to Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh and the Rivers Agency to Loughry, Co. Tyrone.