Work on strategic roads and flagship road schemes underway but Infrastructure Minister comes under fire from Sinn Féin and Alliance.
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has announced her intention to progress a number of strategic infrastructure schemes and flagship projects as part of her plan to aid economic recovery and community transformation.
In County Down, many local communities impacted by the poor road infrastructure are keen to see the Ballynahinch by-pass finally going ahead.
Within the Minister’s budget statement to the Assembly on Wednesday, Department of Infrastructure Minister Nicola Mallon’s has addressed the problem with the Ballynahinch bypass and given it a green light.
It has been included in the funding for the continued development of strategic roads schemes and flagship projects. Officials will now push forward on the development of these important schemes which includes the Ballynahinch By Pass, and Newry Southern Relief Road.
“The Minister has now set the wheels in motion and has asked officials to work at pace to progress these schemes. The Minister intends to provide further announcements later to keep the public updated on progress.
Minister Mallon said: “These strategic and flagship road improvement schemes span Northern Ireland and will deliver for many communities and help to address regional imbalance.
“Many communities across the North have waited a long time for progress to be made and, while Covid-19 has left considerable challenges, I have been determined to get the wheels in motion and get these schemes back on track.
“Each scheme is at a different stage and I have asked my officials to bring forward plans to press ahead in the short and longer term.
“I have also asked officials to bring forward proposals to progress Narrow Water Bridge, a commitment in New Decade New Approach, which would fully explore the environmental and economic benefits this project would deliver for the people of South Down.
“While these are uncertain and difficult times, with a focus on green recovery, I also recognise that our road infrastructure needs updated to relieve traffic in towns, explore options for active travel and reshape our places to deliver towns and cities that work for our communities and aid economic growth.
“I hope to be in a position in the coming weeks to provide a further update on the progress being made.”
Minister needs to get serious about Bypass says Hazzard.
Sinn Féin’s Chris Hazzard MP has called on the Infrastructure Minister to deliver upon her new found commitment to the Ballynahinch Bypass by committing resources to the scheme and commencing construction as soon as possible.
The South Down MP was responding to the Ministers public commitment to “develop” the scheme on Friday having failed to include it in her Department’s budget statement earlier in the week.
Mr Hazzard said: “The local community will be relieved that the Minister hasn’t forgotten about the Ballynahinch Bypass – after a disappointing few days following her Capital Budget plans were published earlier in the week without mention of the bypass scheme.
“I welcome the fact that the Minister has finally now publicly acknowledged, and committed to “further develop” the scheme, however, bearing in the mind the scheme is all but shovel ready, this should be a simple case of signing the commencement orders with construction starting as soon as possible.
“The Minister has a capital budget of more than £540million to be spent this year – very few projects are as advanced as the Ballynahinch Bypass so there is no logical reason why this long overdue project can’t get the green light for construction as a matter of priority.
“In light of the severe economic impact of COVID19 and the ongoing Brexit uncertainty, the commencement of this scheme would be a welcome step towards improving both our local economy and the wellbeing of our local community.”
Alliance Councillor Brown Also Welcomes Ministers Acknowledgement of Need For Ballynahinch Bypass.
Last Friday, the Minister for Infrastructure announced revised plans around which projects will be included in the 2020/2021 Budget. These have now been expanded to incorporate the development of the Ballynahinch bypass.
Councillor Brown, Rowallane DEA said: “The decision to move forward with the Ballynahinch bypass is most welcomed. All the councillors in the area have been pushing for this much-needed investment for years, and we look forward for the work to begin.”
The bypass would hugely ease the traffic congestion in Ballynahinch and improve road safety with the welcomed addition of a cycle and footpath lane. Additionally, it would vastly reduce road journey time, and will open up the South Down area to visitors by making it more accessible.
Councillor Brown, Rowallane DEA added: “As we try and bounce back from the economic impact of the pandemic, we must take strategic steps to boost the local economy; and the implementation of the bypass is one such step.”