Appeal for minister to issue Downpatrick traffic assessment

Appeal for minister to issue Downpatrick traffic assessment

15 July 2020

STORMONT roads minister Nichola Mallon is to be asked to order a fresh traffic survey in Downpatrick town centre.

The appeal has been issued by local councillor Dermot Curran who believes that the time is right for such an assessment to be carried out.

He is hoping that the roads minister will agree to work starting to provide up-to-date figures ahead of the planned multi-million pound redevelopment of the former Irish Street police base in the town.

It was confirmed recently that developers are to be formally be asked to submit expressions of interest in transforming the major site to help bolster the town’s economic recovery.

The Department for Communities and Newry, Mourne and Down Council are driving the ambitious plans to redevelop a near two acre site encompassing the former Irish Street police base, a number of adjacent empty buildings and local authority-owned car park.

Members of the business community and residents are ask being asked for their views and while a traffic assessment is planned as part of the major regeneration scheme, Cllr Curran is keen for this work to start now.

Welcoming the recent upgrade of the Collins’ Corner junction, Cllr Curran said while Downpatrick needs an economic stimulus, there is also need to crack the “age-old congestion problem”.

He believes that the “congestion nettle must be grasped” and hopes that given the heavy involvement of the Department for Communities in the Downpatrick scheme, the Department for Infrastructure will agree to work starting on an updated traffic assessment.

Cllr Curran said while congestion problems have been addressed in many other Northern Ireland towns, the same cannot be said about Downpatrick.

“I have no doubt that roads officials are keen to do all they can and hope that they will be given the green light to proceed with a survey of the current situation by the roads minister,” he said.

“The planned redevelopment of the Irish Street site and addressing town centre congestion go hand-in-hand and it is vital that Newry, Mourne and Down Council and the departments for communities and infrastructure work in unison.”

Cllr Curran said while the introduction of a one-way system has been suggested in the past, there are those in favour and opposed to such a scheme.

“The work at Collins’ Corner has significantly improved a particularly busy junction, but it has not had a major impact on the congestion in the town centre. There is also the need to address the chaotic traffic situation in Edward Street where a busy primary school is located,” he continued.

“While there are those who believe major investment is needed to solve Downpatrick’s traffic problems, perhaps there are small things that could be done in the interim.”

Cllr Curran said second traffic lane at the bottom of Irish Street was suggested several years ago to facilitate vehicles wishing to turn left into Market Street. He said that despite the assurance, the lane has not been delivered.

“Improving traffic light sequencing could also help ease congestion, in particular, allowing the lights at the bottom of English Street to remain on green for longer. This would be a simple step, but a hugely beneficial one in my opinion and that of other residents,” he said.

Cllr Curran said the bottom line is that the Irish Street redevelopment cannot proceed without the completion of an updated traffic assessment.

He added: “The multi-million pound proposal is the most significant ever proposed for the town and will deliver a major kick-start for the economy.  An updated traffic assessment is a critical component of the project and must be delivered sooner rather than later.

“Apart from the development of the Saul Way link road, there has been no major traffic development in Downpatrick town centre for decades. This needs to change. Solving the congestion issue will increase footfall, providing a win-win for residents, shoppers, visitors and the economy.”