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06/05/2016

Row over sale and redevelopment of Shackleton military base

Words: Roger Milne

A major row has surfaced over the last administration’s handling of the sale and redevelopment of the former British Army Shackleton military base in County Londonderry.

A film studio that expressed an interest in buying the 300-hectare site in Londonderry is challenging the First and Deputy First Ministers’ decision to sell it to the Newry-headquartered MJM Group for £1 million.

Now politicians Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness have been accused of jeopardising around 2,000 jobs for the North West by rejecting a major film production company’s bid.

Shackleton Studios, which had already been renting part of the site, is demanding answers on the reasons for the rejection of its proposals for the site by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

Using the name Shackleton, the firm had leased the base and was turning it into production offices and studio space to rent out to production teams for film and television shoots - with one film already completed.

"Whilst being disappointed that the First Minister, Arlene Foster, and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, did not choose its tender, (we are) concerned that the tenders submitted were not scrutinised and managed in an open way," said its statement.

"A successful Shackleton Studios tender would have created between 1,870 and 2,670 jobs in and around Derry-Londonderry,” it insisted.

A statement from the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister said the sale of the site to the MJM Group was completed on April 29 and involved "ambitious plans (which) will deliver huge social and economic benefits for local people including the creation of employment opportunities".

Image credit | Michael Cooper

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