At last... Ballynahinch bypass starting date set to be announced

At last... Ballynahinch bypass starting date set to be announced

18 November 2020

A START date for work on Ballynahinch’s new multi-million pound bypass could be revealed early in the New Year.

Stormont roads minister Nichola Mallon has confirmed that within weeks she will make a so-called direction order which is expected to outline when contractors could be on site to deliver the near two-mile scheme.

Major progress has been made over recent years to advance the scheme to link the Newcastle and Saintfield roads with the bypass designed to alleviate chronic town centre congestion in Ballynahinch and along the main approach roads to the town.

Major new roundabouts are proposed at the Belfast Road junction with the Saintfield Road and at the Newcastle Road junction with the Downpatrick Road, with a new bridge constructed over the Moss Road. 

Overtaking lanes stretching almost 900 metres are proposed at either end of the by-pass where the major new roundabouts are to be constructed, with the scheme also including a shared footpath and cycle lane.

The bypass is the single biggest road scheme ever proposed for the district with suggestions that it will take at least 18 months to construct, with roads officials insisting that the scheme will reduce journey times and improve road safety. 

Last June, the roads minister included the Ballynahinch bypass in a list of strategic projects expected to progress during the current financial year, with the local scheme — which could cost up to £45m — effectively ready to proceed.

South Down MLA Emma Rogan has welcomed the minister’s commitment to finally make a decision in the New Year when work on the bypass will start.

She said while local Sinn Féin representatives have been lobbying the minister since she came into post to sign off on the strategic roads project, she had not fully committed to the much-needed roads scheme.

“Having campaigned for this infrastructural improvement since the 1960s, the local community will be relieved that the roads minister has confirmed to me in writing that she hopes to finally make a decision in the New Year,” said Ms Rogan.

“As this is a ’shovel-ready’ project there had been growing anxiety and frustration locally that the Minister had not moved swiftly to announce the start of the scheme.”

The Assemblywoman said the bypass will greatly improve transport connectivity in the local community and wider South Down area. 

“In light of the severe economic impact of Covid-19 and ongoing Brexit uncertainty, the successful delivery of this project will also help improve both our local economy and the wellbeing of our community in these difficult times,” she said.

A spokesman for the Department of infrastructure said the roads minister announced in June her commitment to fund the continued development of a number of strategic road improvement schemes, including the Ballynahinch bypass as part of her plan to aid economic recovery and community transformation, while addressing regional imbalance.

“The Ballynahinch bypass scheme is now at an advanced stage of development and preparatory work on contract documentation has been completed,” he confirmed.

“The Minister has asked officials to complete the work necessary to allow her to make the Direction Order. This includes a review of the environmental reports which is nearing completion and, subject to the outcome of the review, she hopes to be in position to make the Direction Order for the scheme in the new year.”