A plan spearheaded by local church Green Pastures for a major development at Ballee could create over 1,000 jobs, it has been announced.
The Gateway project is a public/private partnership which will develop a 97-acre site adjacent to the Seven Tower’s roundabout providing training, social intervention services, social housing, a church, a motor village and food retail.
Other planned provision at the lands include a 60-bed hotel, nursing home and care village.
Speaking at a “fresh update” for media in Green Pastures on Thursday afternoon, Gateway Project Board member Trevor Dunlop described the proposed development as “groundbreaking” and pointed out that it has the potential to support over 1000 jobs in Ballymena and make an annual contribution of £40 million to the local economy.
During the construction phase alone 250 full-time jobs will be created and £2.8million local spend will be injected into the Ballymena economy, he said.
It will also see 100 new training and apprentice places delivered every year in partnership with the Wright Group.
It was pointed out that the Gateway project has grown out of “the collective vision” of five project partners - Green Pastures Church, Gateway Social Investments, Compassion Ministries, Connect Ministries and The Wright Group.
Mr Dunlop said: “The Gateway is a ground breaking development which will support the Northern Ireland Executive in delivering on key programme for government commitments, provide a sustainable social enterprise cluster, support the full integration of marginalised people across Antrim, deliver sustainable community development, and all without direct state support.
“It is also consistent with and will actively contribute to the realisation of Ballymena Borough Council’s Economic Development plan and will permit the development of a new headquarters facility for the Wright Group, allowing the company to remain firmly located within the borough and securing much needed employment in research, development and manufacturing in Ballymena and Northern Ireland.”
“The Gateway has been built on a sustainable public/private partnership model involving the Wright Bus Group, local business and an anchor retail interest. It will be 100% sustainable in commercial, social and economic terms.”
The scheme is the brainchild of Jeff Wright, Lead Pastor of the Green Pastures church.
Speaking on Thursday, Mr Wright said: “The Gateway project will also house a new church and conference facility to support our ever growing church family. It will allow us to expand our ministries including kids, youth, senior citizens and community work and positively impact the communities we are connected to.”
Subject to planning approval, construction will begin in mid-2015 on The Gateway, which is located beside the Ballee estate, with phase one of construction set to last 18 months.