Parties All Support Narrow Water Bridge Project, But…
With the Narrow Water Bridge project a part of the New Decade, New Approach deal in January, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has said that she is keen to see the project progress writes Kevin McAteer.
With Covid-19 disrupting the wheels of government, several local political parties were asked about their thoughts on the proposed bridge.
South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells said: “The Bridge should only proceed if it does not in any way prejudice the vital Southern Relief Road to reduce the huge congestion in Newry City. The cost of the Narrow Water Bridge has risen dramatically in recent years.
“I am worried that this may deplete the funds available for the much more important projects. I would also want the concerns of local mussel vessel owners to be properly addressed. They were opposed to the original project as it would damage the fishing grounds they depend upon.
“However,the project which has been a divisive issue seems to have the majority of support within the local political spectrum.”
South Down Alliance Councillor Patrick Brown said: “Alliance certainly welcomes the development of Narrow Water Bridge. We realise the adverse impact the pandemic is having on economic prospects and delivering many major infrastructural projects. That goes for short to medium term projects.
“Any infrastructural projects of regional significance must therefore be progressed on the basis of being ‘shovel ready’. Within the District and across the province, there are a number of projects that are at a more advanced stage of planning. These are likely to come before a Narrow Water bridge project, such as the Ballynahinch Bypass.
“This is not to rule out or dismiss the Narrow Water project. But we need to be aware of the limited resources and significant demands on the DfI for the foreseeable future.”
South Down SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley also commented and said: “The SDLP have consistently championed the need to deliver on the Narrow Water Bridge project. We were instrumental in ensuring it was included in the New Decade New Approach agreement.
“The case for a bridge at this key location has been long established and reinforced by our ever growing aspirations to promote and grow tourism in our beautiful region.”
“I was very pleased my SDLP colleague Nichola Mallon, when becoming Minister for Infrastructure, placed on record her support for the long awaited project. Early in her tenure, Minister Mallon showed this commitment by accepting my invitation to visit the site. She met with the determined volunteers from the Narrow Water Bridge Community Network.
“Unfortunately, the meeting was postponed due to Covid-19. IT had the agreement of all parties. In the face of Covid-19, Minister Mallon and her Executive colleagues have focused on the immediate pressure of keeping people safe.
“The public should be reassured that the SDLP’s commitment to the project remains steadfast. I look forward to the day when we can place this pandemic behind us. Then we can discuss how the all-island Narrow Water Bridge project can contribute to the recovery of our economy.”
Finally, Newry and Mourne District Council Cllr (UUP) David Taylor also contributed to the discussion. He said: “The Ulster Unionist Party has no objections to the Narrow Water Bridge proposal.
“Our consistent position remains that the creation of the Southern Relief Road would be our first priority. In terms of the development of infrastructure projects locally, that would be our first choice if we had to choose.
“There are clear benefits to proceeding with the Southern Relief Road Project in the first instance. That is, both in terms of improving local infrastructure and enhancing the prospects of the local economy. That is why it remains our top priority.
“If there are enough funds to proceed with both the Southern Relief Road and Narrow Water Bridge projects, that would be welcomed. But there will be fiscal challenges faced by Government due to the economic difficulties arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. This may result in expenditure priorities being reviewed.”