Ex-military base could become solar farm

An aerial view of the Shackleton site. Photo: Andy Cameron
An aerial view of the Shackleton site. Photo: Andy Cameron

A deal has finally been struck to transfer an ex-military site out of public ownership.

It has been announced that the Shackleton base site in Ballykelly, north Co Londonderry, was going to be sold to the MJM Group for £1m.

PV panels

PV panels

The Army left the site in 2008, and it was given to the Northern Irish government by the MoD three years later.

The Army had taken over the former World War II airfield from the RAF in the early 1970s.

Roughly 100 acres of the site had already been sold to the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), leaving 621.5 acres for purchase by MJM.

The MJM Group, also known as MJM Interior Build, is based in Newry and according to its website it specialises in “the refurbishment of cruise liners, ferries, yachts and all kinds of public buildings”.

Artist impression of how the new headquarters for DARD in Ballykelly will look.

Artist impression of how the new headquarters for DARD in Ballykelly will look.

Jarlath Quinn, group CEO, said business ventures under “serious consideration” by the firm include “the creation of one of the largest solar panel plants in Europe with the development of a 60 megawatt solar farm at a cost of £60m”.

He added that they could also continue to allow the site to be used by film crews.

Brian McConville, group chairman, said he hopes that ultimately there will be “at least 1,000 jobs on this site once it is fully developed as the opportunities that it will present are enormous”.

First Minister, Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness announced the deal jointly.

A statement from their department said that the MJM Group plans to create over 100 jobs initially on the site.

The First Minister and DUP leader said: “MJM plans for Shackleton include a private jet and rail carriage fit out facility, renewable energy and the company’s own IT service centre and facilities management services which will create over 100 new jobs.

“With NI Water’s plans to develop part of the site for an integrated constructed wetland and DARD’S plans for its new headquarters, the entire site will soon be brought back into use by the new owners.

“At a time when our manufacturing sector has had a number of disappointing announcements, this is a good day not just for Ballykelly but for the manufacturing sector of the wider north west.”

The deputy First Minister described the move as “the start of the next chapter of the Shackleton story”.

He said: “A key aspect of MJM’s proposal was its commitment to providing significant community benefits, including a refurbished community building and outdoor recreation facilities.”

Shackleton was on the market between June 30, 2015 and October 2, 2015.

Seven proposals were received.