DUP’s confidence and supply agreement ‘could seal bypass’

DUP’s confidence and supply agreement ‘could seal bypass’

4 September 2019

CENTRAL government funding could be used to finance Ballynahinch’s new multi-million pound bypass, according to a local politician.

Rowallane councillor Billy Walker believes that funding made available for Northern Ireland road schemes 

as part of the confidence and supply arrangement between the DUP and the Conservative Party, could help deliver the £35m scheme.

The Department of Finance is expected to approve the eagerly-awaited project’s economic appraisal by December which is viewed as a critical step in the process ahead of the required capital funding being released.

And while the permanent secretary at the Department of Infrastructure — which will oversee the construction of the bypass — has warned that the necessary funding has not yet been made available, progress on the £35m scheme is being welcomed.

Roads officials say that development work on the near two-mile scheme to link the Newcastle and Saintfield roads is progressing, with work already completed on a major archaeological investigation along parts of the route.

The Department of Infrastructure says the preparation of the scheme’s economic appraisal report is continuing with Department of Finance approval for the document due to be sought before the end of the year.

During a special briefing with Newry, Mourne and Down councillors last week, the area’s most senior roads official, Simon Richardson, confirmed that in order to advance the bypass scheme’s state of readiness, preparatory work on contract documents is ongoing to “minimise the time required to initiate a procurement competition, should funding become available for construction”.

Mr Richardson said that while the preparatory work continued, no money had been allocated to the scheme designed to alleviate chronic town centre congestion in Ballynahinch and along the main approach roads to the town.

Cllr Walker said he was frustrated that while all the scheme’s “ducks are now in a row”, its delivery will be down to funding which is not yet in place.

“People laugh sometimes when I refer to the money made available to Northern Ireland via the confidence and supply arrangement. A total of £340m was set aside for roads infrastructure but it is not being spent as there is no Stormont minister in place to sign off major new development,” he continued.

“I believe that if the Assembly was up and running again we would be in very strong position to bid for some of this funding for the much-needed Ballynahinch scheme.”

Cllr Walker also revealed his visits to other parts of the province “made him “cross” as he saw major new road development and significantly better roads.

“It appears that in our area we are second class citizens when it comes to roads funding. We have many roads which require major upgrades. Hopefully, the confidence and supply money can be released to fund local projects, in particular, the Ballynahinch bypass scheme,” he added.

As part of the proposed multi-million pound development, major new roundabouts are proposed at the Belfast Road junction with the Saintfield Road and at the Newcastle Road junction with the Downpatrick Road. A new bridge will be constructed over the Moss Road. 

It is also proposed that a section of the bypass will pass under part of the Crossgar Road with a 90 metre long bridge constructed to take traffic over Ballynahinch River.

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

The bypass — which would be the single biggest road scheme ever constructed in the district — is expected to take in excess of 18 months to build, with roads officials insisting it will greatly benefit both strategic and local road users by reducing journey times and improving road safety. 

Roads officials are also confident that the scheme’s economic assessment demonstrates the bypass would provide a good economic return.