Relocation of Department of Agriculture headquarters expected to cost £33 million

An artist's impression of the new Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs headquarters to be based in Ballykelly, Co Derry
John Monaghan

THE cost of the relocation of the Department of Agriculture's new headquarters is expected to be more than £33 million, with £3m spent to date.

Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minister Michelle McIlveen said that the total expenditure on the project, up to November 2016, had been £3m.

The current headquarters are in Dundonald House in Belfast.

Construction work on the new building, on the site of the former Shackleton Army Barracks in Ballykelly, Co Derry, began in November ahead of its planned opening in January 2018.

Ms McIlveen said: "The anticipated overall cost of the project is estimated to be £21.5m capital and £11.8m resource. Costs will continue to be refined as we move through the various stages of the project."

It had been reported that the costs of the project were expected to total around £21m.

The minister was responding to a written Assembly question from UUP South Down MLA Harold McKee.

Around 600 staff are expected to be employed in Ballykelly, although it remains unclear whether there will be enough employees in Dundonald House willing to transfer.

Alliance South Antrim MLA David Ford has previously said that "it is clear that 90 per cent of staff in Dundonald House do not want to move to Ballykelly".

In September, a departmental official told Stormont's agriculture committee that there have been around 1,300 "expressions of interest from other staff" in the civil service who are keen on a move to Ballykelly.

Last month the committee was told that a half-acre strip of land to provide an access road for the new headquarters was bought for £600,000.

The department said the purchase of land, from an unnamed farmer, represented "the best value for money".

The purchase came after the Executive sold 621 acres of land at Ballykelly for a total of £1m - or around £1,610 per acre.

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