Wrightbus plan massive expansion in Ballymena facility

The company was behind London's red Routemaster buses, nicknamed Boris buses after former London Mayor and now foreign secretary Boris Johnson
Andrew Madden

MANUFACTURING giant Wrightbus is planning a massive expansion to its operations in Ballymena.

The firm, which employs around 1200 people, has filed initial plans to build a 200,000 sq ft industrial complex, 600-space car park and 75 two-storey residential houses next to its current facility in the Galgorm area of the town.

Wrightbus specialises in the design and manufacturing of coaches and buses.

In a statement accompanying the designs, Wrightbus said they have "become a victim of their own success as they have outgrown the present site at Galgorm", precipitating the need for the substantial expansion.

"Due to its considerable success the existing site has been developed to its maximum capacity," they added.

"This has forced the company to carry out many of its operations off site in various satellite locations."

The new project itself will be carried out in three phases.

Firstly, the residential development will be completed as a "means to an end", as the finished houses will be rented out or sold in order to provide funding for the industrial and car parking stages of the project.

A total of 75 two-storey homes are to be built on the 3.8 hectare (40,000 sq ft) plot on the Sand Road on the outskirts of Galgorm village.

The second stage will seek to address the parking issue that currently plagues the existing Wrightbus facility, providing 600 new spaces on land adjacent to the Fenaghy Road.

Finally, and arguably the most crucial aspect of the development, will be a new industrial and commercial facility next to the existing Wrightbus operation.

The proposal includes a 200,000 sq ft, single-story factory and an accompanying two-story office building with included welfare facilities.

Wrightbus’ En-drive operation, the arm that constructs the chassis for the firm’s products, is due to be housed in the new industrial site. This aspect of the company’s production is currently carried out in a base in Antrim.

In their latest company accounts for the year to the end of December 2015, Wrightbus notched up £250 million in turnover with a profit of £4.6m.

The firm is one of Northern Ireland's largest manufacturers and is Ballymena’s biggest employers.

These proposed plans will serve as a welcome comfort to the north’s manufacturing sector, and in the more immediate vicinity, given Ballymena’s recent employment woes following the closures of JTI Gallaher and Michelin tyres in the town, which cost more than 1000 jobs.

The company was behind London's red Routemaster buses, nicknamed Boris buses after former London mayor and now foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

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