MLA calls for money to begin bypass work

MLA calls for money to begin bypass work

15 September 2021

STRANGFORD Assemblyman Peter Weir has called for the money required to build Ballynahinch’s new multi-million pound bypass to be made available.

Describing the proposed near two-mile road linking the Belfast and Newcastle roads as as a “critical piece of infrastructure”, he said it was important that the single biggest road scheme ever proposed for the district is delivered.

Mr Weir said Ballynahinch residents have repeatedly made it clear to him how badly needed the bypass is in order to ease congestion in the town centre, particularly during peak travel hours.

He confirmed that he has written to Stormont Roads minister Nichola Mallon, urging her to deliver the scheme, which could cost as much as £45m.

Welcoming the recent ministerial allocation of almost £2m to fund land costs and the road scheme’s development, Mr Weir said work on draft contracts for the bypass scheme are complete, but cannot be finalised until there is certainty about the timescales for procurement and construction.

“The timescales for progress to procurement and construction will depend upon the level of funding made available to Department for Infrastructure in the Stormont spending review,” he explained.

“I welcome confirmation that the roads minister and her department remain committed to delivering the bypass. However, certainty needs to be provided rather than a ‘depending on budget’ response.”

Mr Weir said Ballynahinch residents had waited too long for delivery, adding: “Full funding must be allocated and this important infrastructure scheme finally delivered for the town.”

Approval for the scheme was first given in 2016 by former roads minister Chris Hazzard and last month it was confirmed that it could be 2024 before work on the bypass is completed, given the legislative process that still has to be completed.

During a meeting with local politicians, the district’s divisional roads manager, Mark McPeak, confirmed that the bypass could not be progressed until the Roads minister Nicola provides final funding approval.

He revealed that it would take around 18 months to get the bypass contract ready and awarded and then an estimated two years for construction work.

Mr McPeak added: “Once we get the go-ahead it will probably take 18 months to prepare the documents and procurement to get it on the ground and the construction is probably two years.

“We are waiting on this too as we would like to get on and do it, but we can’t. We have to wait until we can be certain of funding.”

As part of the Ballynahinch scheme, 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.