Refurbishment of historic windmill creates 15 new jobs for people with disabilities

A magnificent new £1.7m visitor attraction at Ballycopeland Windmill is providing valuable jobs

Fifteen new jobs have been created for people with disabilities after the opening of a magnificent new £1.7m visitor attraction at the historic Ballycopeland Windmill near Millisle, Co Down.

Ulster Supported Employment Ltd (Usel) is operating the new interpretative centre and ability café in partnership with the Department for Communities.

David Cowan, head of employment services at USEL, said the new initiative is providing valuable jobs for people with disabilities in the area.

Jim Frame, Pietro Amarello, Simon Dobson, John Lyttle, Beth Hagan and Courtney Wilson. The new attraction has created 15 new jobs for people with disabilities

He added: “Operating the visitor attraction allows us to create more employment opportunities for people with disabilities or health condition in the hospitality and tourism industry and also bring our award-winning hospitality services to the Ards and North Down area.”

Simon Dobson, one of the chefs at the new facility, said: “Working as a chef with autism has its struggles however with Usel and the ability cafes I am able to show who I am as a person and show what I can do as a chef. I’m looking forward to working at Ballycopeland Windmill.”

Built in the late 18th or early 19th century, Ballycopeland windmill is the last working windmill in Northern Ireland. The new interpretative centre celebrates the history of this unique place and brings to life the fascinating stories of those who lived and worked there.

The jobs boost follows the official opening of the new heritage visitor centre and café by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and her Executive colleague Edwin Poots, Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

Minister Hargey said: “Research shows that the disability employment gap is widening, the public sector must take a lead by providing opportunities for people with disabilities and health conditions to prepare for and access work. I am delighted that now the Ability Café at Ballycopeland windmill is open, USEL will be able to support additional people into careers in the hospitality sector.”

The site is now open to the public. In addition to the new heritage visitor centre and café, the refurbishment of the site also includes a new access road with car parking and refurbishment of the miller’s cottage and kilnman’s house.

Funding for the refurbishment included a £1.2m investment from the Department for Communities, with a further £500,000 coming from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ Rural Tourism Fund and £30,000 from Ards and North Down Borough Council.

USEL, which is a leading social enterprise, is Northern Ireland’s top provider in helping people with disabilities or health conditions to find or sustain employment. It runs a number of other ability cafés, as well as manufacturing and recycling services at its headquarters in Cambrai Street in Belfast.

“William Leathem, USEL Chair, said: “Adding Ballycopeland Windmill to our portfolio will allow us to create more job opportunities within the local area of Ards and North Down Borough Council.”