Ulster Unionist Leader, Mike Nesbitt MLA, has called for an investigation into the sale of the former Shackleton Barracks military base in County Londonderry in order to determine whether value for the public purse was achieved. The 621 acre Executive Office owned site was sold earlier this year for just £1m, or £1,610 per acre.
Mike Nesbitt, Chair of the Assembly’s Executive Office Committee, said:
“This site is a major economic asset for the wider Ballykelly area with the potential to create thousands of jobs. Setting aside the fact that the site was delivering nothing for the local community by lying empty and primarily growing weeds, the costs to the public purse of securing it were running up to half a million pounds a year.
“Whilst the sale of the substantial site may have represented a bargain for the MGM Group, I am seriously concerned as to why the publically owned site was sold for such a knocked-down price.
“Given agricultural land in Northern Ireland regularly sells in excess of £8,000 per acre, selling over 620 acres for only £1m represents a potential loss to the Northern Ireland Executive of £4m.
“Whilst I understand that not all the land on the site was agricultural, the site included a significant array of buildings including offices, workshops and hangars. These also inevitably carried their own financial value so they should have further added to the final price received.
“The Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister previously stated that there was very significant interest in the site amongst potential purchasers and therefore I simply cannot comprehend why such a large site, with such a vast array of opportunities, was sold for such a low price.
“I will be referring the sale to the Public Accounts Committee at Stormont and the Northern Ireland Audit Office in the hope that they investigate whether this sale represented value for the public purse.”