The much-awaited Ballynahinch by-pass is now is going through the slow process of departmental consideration.
THE “next steps” are currently being considered by the Department for Infrastructure on the long-awaited Ballynahinch by-pass writes Laura Barr.
Down News can confirm that the multi-million-pound scheme is now at an “advanced stage of development” with a specimen design being prepared and preparatory work on contract documentation finally completed.
The Minister of Department for Infrastructure (DfI) Nichola Mallon has asked officials to complete the work necessary to allow her to make the Direction Order on the two-mile scheme which would link the Newcastle and Saintfield Roads.
Back in June, the Minister announced her commitment to fund the continued development of a number of Strategic Road Improvement schemes, including the A24 Ballynahinch Bypass.
This was part of her plan to aid economic recovery and community transformation while addressing regional imbalance.
A Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said: “The scheme is now at an advanced stage of development; a specimen design has been prepared and preparatory work on contract documentation has been completed.
“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.”
The spokesperson added: “Regarding public artwork, one of the objectives in the Government’s policy on Architecture and Built Environment is to encourage the integration of art in the design of public buildings and public spaces.
“DfI are working closely with Newry Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) to consider options for a piece of artwork for this scheme.”
A spokesperson from NMDDC said: “The proposed Ballynahinch By-Pass is mentioned during regular Department for Infrastructure Roads presentations to council.
However, the council has not received an official request to progress this project.”
DUP Rowallane Councillor Billy Walker welcomed news of the Minister’s commitment to the scheme adding it was “much needed” in the district and something which has been supported by all political parties over the years.
He said: “The Minister has indicated she is wanting to move the project to the next stage and I believe the next stage should be the total funding of the by-pass as the people of Ballynahinch have been waiting upwards of 40 years for it to be delivered”.
Meanwhile Alliance Rowallane Councillor Patrick Brown said he too was pleased to hear the bypass has now moved to the advanced stage of development and that work is progressing.
He said: “As I’ve stated before, the decision to move forward with the Ballynahinch bypass is most welcomed and has the support of all councillors in the area, who strongly agree that this is a necessary investment.
“The bypass will hugely ease the traffic congestion in Ballynahinch, lead to improved road safety, and vastly reduce road journey time.
“In turn, this will open up the South Down area to visitors, once restrictions ease, by making it more accessible, which will provide a much-needed boost to the local economy.”