Ballymena coach manufacturer Wrightbus has submitted a major planning application for an industrial/commercial premises, residential development and 600 car parking spaces on land behind its current Fenaghy Road site.
The County Antrim firm, which employs over 1,500 people, is eyeing a 9.57 hectare site which extends behind Sandmount Road and across to
Sand Road, Galgorm.
Last year, Wrightbus Group confirmed that they had exchanged contracts for the purchase of the former JTI (Gallaher) site on the opposite bank of the River Maine in Lisnafillan.
At the time, Wrightbus Chairman and CEO Mark Nodder said that the purchase would enable the company to overcome the space constraints of its current ‘landlocked’ site, as business growth had “progressively taken up all the land that we have owned.”
Wrights Group MD Steven Francey added that the Lisnafillan site could “potentially host Advanced Engineering and R&D facilities.”
Now, recently-lodged plans for the site behind Fenaghy Road reveal that it is being earmarked for “industrial/commercial premises for the manufacture, development and repair of buses” as well as a new 75-dwelling residential development.
The plan would include a single storey factory with an area totalling 200,000 square feet, with ancillary office and welfare facilities housed in an attached two storey block.
The building would be purpose built to accommodate the firm’s EN-drive operation, which is currently located in Antrim.
EN-drive assembles chassis for the Wrightbus product lineup, and the company says the 200,000 square foot factory is required to house the current operation and provide capacity for future expansion.
The design and access statement for the proposed site says that the expansion would represent a “lifeline” for Wrightbus which would help the company “achieve their vision for the future.”
It added: “Wrightbus are a home-grown company and due to their expansion over the years they have become a major employer in the Ballymena area.
“They have also become a victim of their own success as they have outgrown the present site at Galgorm.
“In short they need more space.
“Fortunately that space has presented itself in the form of vacant ground adjoining the existing complex.
“Wrightbus are seizing this lifeline with both hands.
“The proposal is to develop this land to provide the much-needed industrial buildings, car parking to rationalise the present inadequate arrangements and housing to provide the means to achieve their vision for the future.
“The proposal site lends itself perfectly to these requirements.”