Ballymena Borough councillors have given ‘in principle’ approval to go ahead with a controversial £4m scheme which will change the streetscape of the town’s four core streets.
Executive powers had been granted to a Council committee to enable a decision to be taken last Monday night and members attending did so unanimously.
Two options were put before them one of which was to postpone or cease the Ballymena Public Realm Scheme resulting in the loss of at least £1m of funding in 2013-14 and potentially put the entire scheme at risk.
Councillors went for the option to move forward with the scheme as proposed, to deliver on the masterplan and vision for the town centre and the requirements to meet funders’, DSD’s, spending plans and timetables.
Prior to reaching their ‘in principle’ decision they were reminded that negotiations continue with DSD to introduce up to eight new car parking spaces on Thomas Street in a bid to ease the concerns voiced in recent weeks by traders on adjacent Ballymoney Street over a 10% reduction in their on-street parking.
Councillors were also informed by Chief Executive Anne Donaghy that the very latest negotiations had resulted in the possibility, subject to design and fulfilling DSD requirements, of relocating ‘one or two’ of the 26 parking spaces which would remain on Ballymoney Street.
“This brings a lot of flexibility,” she told the meeting.
Earlier, a representative of the consultants for the scheme, the Paul Hogarth Company, gave a detailed outline of the proposals for the core streets.
On Church Street, footpaths will be widened from 1.7 to 2.5m and on-street parking will be reduced from 29 to 25 spaces.
Wellington Street will have arrival points and crossings upgraded and on street parking will be reduced from 34-32 spaces.
Ballymoney Street footpaths will increased in width from 1.7-2.5m, arrival points will be introduced for the Tower Centre and Alexander Street car parks and parking will be reduced from 29-26 while on-street spaces while Broughshane Street will see footpaths widened up to 2.5m and on-street parking reduced from 31-26 spaces.
Parking will be reduced on Bryan Street from six to two and flush kerbs introduced with the aim of using the thoroughfare “for temporary small scale events”.
Plans for Thomas Street include a one-way system, footpaths widened by one metre and the introduction of eight parking spaces while five spaces will be lost on-street at Broadway.
The consultant said that following a similar scheme in Newry in 2011, footfall increased by 11% and business activity by seven per cent.
Proposing that Council go-ahead ‘in principle’, Cllr Tommy Nicholl, who found a ready seconder in Cllr Declan O’Loan, welcomed the increased flexibility but added: “This not just about Ballymoney Street...it’s for the benefit of all traders.”
Alderman PJ McAvoy commented: “There should be no winners or losers in this, we have come to a compromise.”
Pointing out that the ‘final proposal’ would go before the next full meeting of Council in November, Chief Executive Anne Donaghy said: “At the end of the day its about Ballymena Town Centre winning.”