The headquarters of the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) could be moved from Belfast to Hillsborough.
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) has confirmed that it is looking at moving the facility away from Newforge, and that it is considering Hillsborough as an alternative location.
“DAERA is committed to supporting the development of AFBI as a world-leading facility,” a department spokesperson said.
“It is recognised that AFBI’s current headquarter premises at Newforge Lane, Belfast, are excessively large.
“The department is considering plans which would see it relocating to a smaller site with more modern, efficient facilities.
“Work is ongoing to point the best way forward in this regard, including the option of moving to the Hillsborough site.”
The department didn’t give a specific date for when it might move the AFBI headquarters from the Newforge site.
The DAERA spokesperson added: “A masterplan for the farm buildings at the AFBI Hillsborough site is under way. It is envisaged that a consolidation, replacement and modernisation programme will be taken forward out to 2020.
“This will be undertaken in conjunction with CAFRE, to ensure that a holistic approach is taken to development of DAERA’s farming platform.”
Lagan Valley MLA Brenda Hale has welcomed the department’s commitment to the Hillsborough site and said she is looking forward to the Minister providing further updates on the AFBI estate strategy in the coming months.