Senior official backs Ballynahinch bypass

Senior official backs Ballynahinch bypass

6 June 2018

THE district’s most senior roads official has said he is keen to build Ballynahinch’s new multi-million pound bypass.

Addressing local politicians last week, divisional roads manager Simon Richardson said that as an engineer he was keen to get involved in building the near two-mile scheme which will link the Belfast and Newcastle roads.

As part of the £35m project, major new roundabouts are proposed at the Belfast Road junction with the Saintfield Road and at the Newcastle Road junction with the Downpatrick Road in Ballynahinch.

A new bridge will also be constructed over the Moss Road, with the bypass passing under part of the Crossgar Road with a 90 metre long bridge constructed to take traffic over Ballynahinch River.

While progression to the construction stage remains subject to clearing statutory procedures and securing finance, roads engineers have been doing all they can to progress the scheme.

Work was completed recently on archaeological and geotechnical investigations along the proposed route of the bypass with Mr Richardson confirming work is progressing on a business case for submission to the Department of Finance.

He explained when this is completed, it will allow roads officials to proceed with preparing contract documents. But Mr Richardson warned that officials cannot move to the procurement and construction stages until the necessary funding is available.

“No commitment to funding for construction has been made available in the budget set for 2018/19.

“We do have money set aside to develop the business case, but no commitment to funding for construction,” said the roads official.

Mr Richardson added: “I want to progress this scheme as I am an engineer. I would love to build the Ballynahinch bypass and we will do everything we can to bring this scheme forward. However, there are certain steps we cannot take until we get a funding commitment.”

Rowallane councillor Billy Walker said he would like to see work starting on the much-needed new road in the current financial year.

“This scheme is shovel ready and I hope the council will work in partnership with local roads officials to lobby for the funding that is required,” he continued.

“Strangford MP Jim Shannon is working to help lever some of the money made available to Northern Ireland as a result of the so-called confidence and supply arrangement with the Conservatives for the bypass.”

He continued: “When you look at other parts of Northern Ireland, most notably, west of the Bann and in the north west of the Province, there has been major investment in the roads network. That has  not been the caae in our area.

“From Ballynahinch to Newry we are playing second fiddle when it comes to roads investment. This lack of investment is also hindering the development of the district and is an issue which must be addressed.”

Cllr Walker said the proposed bypass had the potential to provide a significant boost for the wider South Down economy as it was viewed as the gateway to the Mournes.

He added: “Upgrading our roads infrastructure will benefit many and I hope we see real progress over the coming months towards delivering this much-needed bypass. The priority must now be a formal funding bid.”