Greencastle Area Residents Group visited Stormont on Monday 3rd November to meet with Minister Danny Kennedy, the Minister responsible for Regional Development which includes Roads.
The Group highlighted the high level of risk to road safety, the demise of local tourism, the restrictions on accessibility and movability along the Pier Road and extending roads to the A2 in both NE and NW directions.
A representative from Road Services also attended the meeting to note concerns.
Recent information from the latter department has confirmed that there are indeed grave concerns with regards to road safety due to road widths proposed by the Applicant. Under a FOI request it was discovered that in July 2014 TransportNI could not accept the current road proposals. From the initial recommendation of 7.3m wide (which is the standard width for new roads), the Applicant is proposing to leave sections of the Pier Road and beyond at a dangerous 4.25m width.
With the inevitable increase in speed that comes with high numbers of traffic, the risk of potential crashes will also rise and specifically at road entrances of local residencies and farming buildings.
The GARG Chair, Diarmuid Cahill highlighted many anomalies in the road improvement proposals to Minister Kennedy saying “the proposed road widths being discussed have been continuously reduced in size since the initial application from 6.1, to 5.5 and more recently, 4.8m. This is a serious cause for concern with regards to potential collisions and accessibility restrictions for residents”. As highlighted by one of the Ministers Engineers If speeds increase as a result of any widening—slight lines at existing accesses will not be adequate. Minister Kennedy duly noted the concerns and said that if his decision was to endorse the project, he would set conditions addressing the road widths along the Pier Road and beyond.
Niall Cunningham, who is a local farmer who uses the Pier Road to herd cattle and large farming machinery, explained to the Minister how he will be directly affected by the proposal to the detriment of his livelihood and the risk to safety of his herds and farm workers.
Other representations were made to the Minister covering aspects including: the loss of tourism potential for Greencastle; the impact on the Mourne cycle route; emergency service access, environmental issues affecting wildlife and the lack of engagement with the majority of residents who are against the proposal.
The Minister confirmed that he is still in dialogue with the Applicant and that he is still gathering information to make an informed decision.
GARG would like to thank the Minister, Road Services, Karen McKevvit MLA and Margaret Ritchie MP for providing an open and receptive forum to discuss the debate.