Border to go as development sees Derry spill into Donegal
By Seamus McKinney
The border is set to disappear in Derry as major developments on either side extend the city into the Republic.
The Irish News has learned details of a massive shopping, office and conference complex planned for Bridgend in Co Donegal.
Land and private funding for the £160 million scheme have been secured and backers hope to announce construction plans early next year.
Fronting the main Derry to Buncrana road, the development will be bounded by the busy border crossing.
However, it aims to complement plans to build 5,000 new homes on the northern side of the border, as well a new bus station at Coshquin with park-and-ride facilities.
The two major projects will mean the address ‘Derry, Co Donegal’ could soon be a reality.
The Derry/Donegal ‘gateway project’ at Bridgend will include a major anchor retail store with potential employment for 300 people, as well as cafe and restaurant facilities, offices and a conference centre.
A spokesman for developers Emerald Holdings – who are also behind the multi-million-pound Opportunity Omagh project in Co Tyrone – said they planned to draw heavily on the thousands of new homes which are to be built along the Buncrana Road.
Speaking exclusively to The Irish News, the spokesman said that with both developments to meet at the border, Derry’s urban mass would spread into Co Donegal.
Already many people working in Derry commute from homes in Donegal, while significant numbers cross the border to shop or buy petrol.
The spokesman said the developers would establish themselves on the southern side of the border so that users could take advantage of better corporate tax levels.
“The investors looked at the area and realised that before the Troubles the Buncrana Road corridor was a key economic area,” he said.
“They realised that if there had been no Troubles, there would have been a thriving economy along that corridor.
“Now with the peace process embedded they hope to fast-track that economic development.”
The spokesman said planning application had been lodged for the development.
“The money is in place. The land is in contract. We would hope to announce by the spring when we can move on site,” he said.
The Coshquin crossing point is also synonymous with the deaths of five British soldiers and Catholic man Patsy Gillespie in an IRA bomb in 1990, after he was forced to drive to a checkpoint in a car loaded with explosives.
This is a fine example of how far we have come in recent years. Hopefully there will be other similar projects that will be mutually beneficial to all Irish people from both the North and South.