The transformation of a barracks

Seamus Heaney HomePlace

Creating an arts and literary centre
  • Awarded
  • Category
    Economic prosperity
  • Outcome

Proof of concept

the transformation of a former RUC barracks

This award was received for the transformation of a former RUC barracks into a major arts, literary and visitor centre dedicated to the Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney (1939-2013). This £4.25m project is located in the village of Bellaghy, Co Derry, where Seamus Heaney was born, raised and where he drew much of the inspiration for his poetry. The centre boasts a 190 - seat performing arts space, education and learning spaces, a cafe, shop and an annex for community use.

  • 17 new posts have been created at HomePlace
  • Within its first two months HomePlace attracted just over 8500 visitors
  • The transformation of a once heavily fortified police station which symbolised decades of division is now a positive space which has helped to refresh and enhance the village of Bellaghy

Key facts

Occupancy rate in year one
visitors visited HomePlace within two months of its opening
Occupancy rate in year one
new jobs have been created at the project
Occupancy rate in year one
million project cost to complete
Former police station (Copyright Keith Allen)
HomePlace external (Copyright Mid Ulster District Council)

Shifting perceptions of the area

How/why did the project benefit the public?

The project has been a catalyst for environmental improvements in the wider village. In preparation for the opening of HomePlace and as part of the village's regeneration, this scheme saw close to £100k invested in public realm improvements in Bellaghy. The works completed included pavement cleaning, some repaving in the centre of the village, as well as planting, new seats, bins, bollards and signage. A further £20k was invested in the provision of WiFi in the village.
There has been a significant level of community engagement activity particularly in community development, education and business engagement. As a result a community forum was created which helps to ensure that HomePlace is as much a centre for the local people, as it is for visitors.

What were local planners looking to achieve on the project?

  • To create a dynamic arts and literary centre that recognises the significant contribution Seamus Heaney made as a poet, playwright, translator and lecturer.
  • To create a flagship centre of the arts that will act as a beacon of excellence, providing unique and rewarding opportunities for the people of Bellaghy, Mid Ulster and beyond.
  • For the centre to be a vital and energetic contributor to art and cultural identity in the District.
  • To act as a catalyst for regeneration in a village that has suffered from poor economic conditions and the legacy of conflict.

Justifying the need

How were local planners essential to the project’s success?

This project is a great example of a successful collaborative working approach between local council and central government planners.

There was a pressured timeframe on this project with a significant capital build cost. Planners were central in quickly bringing together the key players in the planning application process which was crucial to addressing design issues and moving the project forward.

Economic prosperity

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Economic prosperity