Cookstown loses out as DARD HQ moves to North West
THE NEWS that Ballykelly and not Cookstown has been awarded the new headquarters of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has been met with the disappointment of politicians in Cookstown.
DARD Minister Michelle O’Neill confirmed that Ballykelly’s former military site would be the location for the new department in an announcement last week.
Cookstown’s Loughry College site had been a prime contender in the department’s relocation programme which aims to decentralise a significant share of public sector jobs by 2015.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s current headquarters are located in Dundonald House in the Stormont Estate.
Announcing her decision, Minister O’Neill said: “The relocation of the DARD HQ will stimulate the local economy through increased local spending, provision of high quality and well paid public sector jobs and potentially jobs associated with the construction and ongoing servicing of the new HQ.
“The relocation will also help to share wealth across the wider economy and contribute to better-balanced economic growth, by starting to address disparities in the distribution of public sector jobs in the north of Ireland.”
Cookstown District Council had made significant efforts in preparing and presenting a business case to the department for the area to be considered a priority in relocation.
Cookstown District Chair, SDLP councillor Tony Quinn outlined his disappointment with the move: “As Chairman of Cookstown District Council, I wish to express my disappointment with the Minister’s decision to relocate DARD headquarters to Ballykelly by 2015.
“Significant efforts were made by Cookstown District Council to secure the relocation of DARD headquarters to Loughry College (CAFRE and Food Incubation Centre), which has extensive facilities and services readily available, as well as having the necessary development land for current and future requirements.”
Councillor Quinn said that Cookstown remained to be the district with the lowest level of public sector jobs, which would continue to have an impact on people’s incomes.
DUP MLA Ian McCrea also expressed his disappointment at the news, but commended the work of council officers in trying to secure the relocation for Cookstown.
“I was extremely disappointed to hear the news that the new DARD HQ will be relocated to Ballykelly.
“I want to commend the officers and staff at Cookstown Council for the efforts they put into bidding for the new DARD HQ we might have lost this fight however we will continue the battle.”
UUP Councillor Trevor Wilson described Loughry as having “all the necessary attributes” for the departmental headquarters, and was too disappointed by the news.
Wilson said: “It was very disappointing that Loughry College is not going to be the new DARD HQ. Cookstown is ideally situated at the centre of Northern Ireland and had all the necessary attributes to facilitate the centre.”
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Weather for Dungannon
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: South
Temperature: 8 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: South west