Workspace Seeks Rural College Tenant

Rural College Draperstown

Since 1985 the Workspace Group has been an economic focal point of the communities it serves in the Draperstown/Magherafelt area. It is an enterprise agency, providing free support to start-up businesses as well as mentoring to aspiring social entrepreneurs and, with several local assets in its portfolio, is a model of community ownership.

One of these assets was acquired back in the 1990s, when Workspace redeveloped what was once the residence of the local hanging judge but subsequently became the Rural College. The college was successfully run as a social enterprise for many years but after it went into administration in 2012, Workspace was unable to identify alternative tenants. The management of this building is no longer viable, and Workspace is now on the lookout for potential suitors to take over the lease.

Rural College Draperstown aerial view

The Derrynoid Centre, as it is known, has been vacant for eight years now and it is no longer feasible for Workspace to pay rates and maintenance costs for the property. The site has massive potential, however: it comprises a 2.15-acre site, set in 250 acres of secluded forest woodland with one main building and four accommodation blocks. The main building houses a multi-media lecture centre (110 capacity), six training rooms, five offices and a restaurant area. The accommodation blocks contain a total of 40 ensuite bedrooms. It also features a separate building previously used as a leisure suite, complete with changing rooms.

Whilst the complex was previously used as a college, its potential usages could include a healthcare facility, an outdoor activity centre, or office and conferencing space. As such, it represents a major rural regeneration opportunity.

Workspace Chief Executive, Georgina Grieve, explains: “We tried our best with loads of different potential tenants but none of them came off. At one point there was a promising collaboration between a mental health service provider and a social housing association, but that deal also collapsed. We really tried to establish a community hub in Draperstown but we’re now resigned to the fact that it won’t happen at Derrynoid.”

Workspace is happy to listen to all reasonable propositions for the college site; Georgina is anxious that the asset is brought into productive community use, even at the expense of a profit. “We’re happy to hand it over for alternative use with no compensation required, so long as this has DAERA and Forest Service approval,” she says.

If you are interested in finding out more about this opportunity, contact Shauna Kehoe at shauna@theworkspacegroup.org or call 028 7962 8113.