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Health hub would only occupy half of prime Derry site

A marketing exercise will be launched to determine which project will fill the other half

Major Fort George projects on hold

A proposed health hub at Fort George will only occupy half of the site if approved, the Derry News has learned.

In Monday’s paper it was revealed that discussions have taken place about siting an International Maritime and Emigration Museum alongside the medical hub at the prime riverside location.

Expressions of interest were previously sought from private developers in Autumn 2018.

That was used to inform the department on the level and type of interest in the Fort George site. 

Owner of the site, the Department for Communities (DfC) has confirmed that new bids will be considered once a ‘full marketing exercise’ is launched.

A DfC spokesperson said: “The Department will decide on the most appropriate method for regenerating the wider Fort George site. 

“The Western Health and Social Care Trust’s proposal regarding a Cityside health hub is still subject to approval and, if approved, would require approximately half of the Fort George site. 

“In any event, the Department expects to undertake a full marketing exercise in the future. 

“As such, it would not be appropriate to comment on any other potential proposals until this marketing exercise is undertaken.”

HISTORY

The 15 acre Fort George site was used as a British Army base from 1971 to 2000.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) vacated the site almost 20 years ago in 2001.

It was then acquired by the now dissolved Department for Social Development in 2004.

The MoD had to spend over £3m decontaminating the site which had been in use since World War II as it was polluted with heavy oils and diesels, as well as small amounts of heavy metals.

In 2007 Japanese knotweed, which can undermine foundations, was identified.

Remediation work to treat and manage the invasive weed commenced in 2012.

Follow-up treatment was deemed necessary again in 2016 and continued until 2018.

Significant sums of money have been spent carrying out that work.

TIMELINE

Urban regeneration company, Ilex, was set-up in 2003 with the objective of developing Fort George and Ebrington.

Planning permission was sought for a mixed-use development including office blocks, residential space, as well as bars and restaurants in July 2012.

During the 2013 City of Culture year in Derry the site was used as a car park.

In June 2013 permission was granted for a four-storey office development for science and IT based businesses which would be named the North West Science Park.

The NW Science Park opened in September 2014 and remains the only building on the site.

An announcement was made in September 2015 that the mixed-use development project had been given the go-ahead but it never came to fruition.

In October 2015 it emerged that Ilex was to be wound up after an independent review found that it failed to secure private investment.

At the time, the late Martin McGuinness wanted the local council to assume responsibility for Ebrington but it remains under the stewardship of The Executive Office (TEO), formerly The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM).

An application was submitted for the second phase of the NW Science Park in November 2016 which will be almost identical to the current building in size and shape.

It’s understood those plans have been held up because of strict planning legislation which takes into account a flooding risk posed by Creggan Reservoirs.

Approval will not be granted until remedial works are carried out at the reservoirs.

Site owner, the Department for Communities (DfC), sought expressions of interest from private investors in September 2018.

The Trust and DfC entered into a joint Memorandum of Understanding allowing the Trust to progress the business case and secure the necessary approvals.

In March 2020, the business case was submitted for departmental consideration and it’s understood the Trust continues to work closely with DfC.

 

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Derry Now editorial team on 028 7129 6600 for Derry City stories Or 028 7774 3970 for County Derry stories. Or you can email editor@derrynews.net or editor@derrypost.com at any time.


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