Community left frustrated as Roads Minister leaves Bypass on the shelf says Hazzard
Sinn Féin South Down MP Chris Hazzard has expressed his concerns over the progress on the Ballynahinch Bypass.
Mr Hazzard said: “The “failure to commence the Ballynahinch Bypass during this Assembly mandate has been a kick in the teeth for local residents and commuters in South Down”.
The South Down MP was speaking following confirmation from the DFI Minister Nichola Mallon that she would not be signing the commencement order for the long-awaited scheme during her tenure as Minister for Infrastructure.
“For more than two years now the people of Ballynahinch, and the wider South Down area, have been waiting for a positive, proactive statement of intent from the current minister regarding the bypass. Unfortunately, we have been left waiting, and the scheme remains on the shelf.
“At just £35million, the project costs for the Ballynahinch scheme are relatively minor for a Department that boasts a huge capital budget of more than £500million per year. This scheme represents excellent value for money, and should have been prioritised during the last two years.
“More than a £1billion of capital resources has been spent by the minister and her department during the lifetime of this Assembly. It is hugely disappointing that a small, yet strategically important scheme such as the Ballynahinch Bypass has been left on the shelf.
“In light of the economic impact of COVID-19 and the ongoing Brexit uncertainty, the commencement of this scheme would have been a welcome step towards improving both our local economy and the wellbeing of our local community.
“We can only hope now that when the Executive is restored after May’s Assembly election, that the local community can have a minister in place who recognises the value of the Ballynahinch Bypass, and finally begins construction.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure said: “The Department is committed to delivering the Ballynahinch Bypass as part of a plan to aid economic recovery and community transformation, while addressing regional imbalance.
“Development work on the project is now substantially complete and the next stage would involve commencing the procurement of a contractor. Progression to procurement, construction and completion will be dependent upon the level of funding made available to the Department in future budgets.
“The Department’s bid for the 2022-25 Budget included funds to deliver this scheme, however in the absence of an agreed budget the Department is unable to be definitive about timescales for delivery.
“Subject to funding being made available, it is estimated it would take around 18 months to the start of construction from any decision to move to procurement, and a further 18 months to complete construction of the scheme.”