A South Antrim MLA has sought to re-assure Randalstown residents over the ongoing public realm scheme being carried out in the town.
DUP Assemblyman Trevor Clarke said his office had been contacted by residents, particularly over the issues of traffic congestion in the town as a result of the works.
Mr Clarke said that whilst this scheme is an “inconvenience” for the locals, “this has been balanced to try and get trade in Randalstown back to normal as soon as possible”.
Many residents have taken to social media to vent their frustrations over traffic jams, particularly through the Neillsbrook estate which is being used as a route to avoid the works.
Mr Clarke said that if the length of the working day for the scheme was shortened, “the inconvenience will last longer, therefore Neillsbrook will be used as a rat run for a longer period of time, and I don’t want the residents to suffer anymore inconvenience”.
“There was a public meeting held before the work began, where local traders, residents and public representatives were invited to attend and raise their concerns. This scheme we have finished up with was on the basis of the consensus of those in attendance,” Mr Clarke added.
He said that it had been discussed at great length with traffic management would be put in place in outer areas such as Portglenone and Ballymena to emphasise the working times of this scheme, which he said “should have resulted in traffic avoiding the area during these times, therefore leaving Neillsbrook with the capacity for local traffic”.
“The whole idea of using Neillsbrook was never ideal, however if people used the guidance from the signs then traffic possibly wouldn’t be as bad as it has been. Unfortunately, the two worst days for congestion was due to two separate accidents where the Moneynick and Lisnevenagh Road were closed, and a life was lost and therefore this cannot be legislated for,” Mr Clarke said.
H added that he had contacted Roads Service and the PSNI,about cases where there are incidents such as road traffic collisions in surrounding areas where traffic is diverted to the area, the road will be opened to clear the traffic.
“The work has started and the first stage is due to end at the end of November, and whilst I understand the concerns from all those who are sitting in traffic, including myself, from the local traders and from the residents, I believe that this work will be worthwhile and will be appreciated in the end,” he said.
He added: Let’s look to the future where we will have our town back.”
Mr Clarke said the public works scheme was first proposed a number of years ago but shelved due to concerns for the local traders.
“Another opportunity arose with the Department of Social Development who had money available for this type of scheme, which is now being managed by the Antrim and Newtownabbey Council,” Mr Clarke said.
He added: “At that time meetings were organised and the general consensus was sought. Timings were looked at but closing the road for 24 hours was ruled out, given that people live on the street and the difficulties they have experienced from previous contracts.
“Given that the money was identified late, the council only had three options: to acquire and manage the scheme themselves, but time didn’t allow this as the money would have been lost; work with the contractor already in place with Roads Service, and thirdly, no prospect of a scheme in the future, due to the economic climate and no doubt Randalstown needed the investment as much as many other towns and therefore this wasn’t an option.”