THE plans for a new headquarters for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) have been unveiled today.
DARD is leaving its existing east Belfast base in the Stormont estate and moving to Ballykelly in Co Derry.
The aim is to decentralise hundreds of civil service jobs to outside Belfast.
Sinn Fein Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said DARD has “identified more than 1,500 civil servants who would want to move to Ballykelly”.
Ms O’Neill unveiled an artist’s impression of the new HQ building on the same day that her department submitted the planning application to the Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.
“Today is a key milestone in realising the £20m vision we see for DARD and the potential positive impact this move will have for the north west,” the minister said.
She added that work will soon begin to match civil servants who have expressed an interest in working in Ballykelly to jobs in the new building.
“The level of interest in this location shows the executive has got it right when it comes to decentralising jobs,” Ms O’Neill said.
About 700 DARD posts are due to be relocated to the new site, at the former Shackleton army barracks, over the next five years.
The jobs will be decentralised in two stages, with approximately 350 staff taking up position in Ballykelly in 2017 and the remainder moving by 2020.