Street scheme drainage snag

Work underway on one of Ballymena's core streets as part of the ongoing Public Realm scheme. (Editorial Image).
Work underway on one of Ballymena's core streets as part of the ongoing Public Realm scheme. (Editorial Image).

Ballymena’s Public Realm Scheme has hit a snag with the discovery of underground “drainage complications”, it has emerged.

A spokesperson for Mid & East Antrim Borough Council, which is joint funding the £4million scheme with the Department for Social Development, confirmed to The Ballymena Times on Thursday that the contractor had come across “unforeseen underground drainage infrastructure issues which originate from many years ago”.

The spokesperson said: “The drainage complications impacted on other utility services underground and to move or divert such utility connections would result in significant cost and equally significant delay in the programme.

“The Contractor has put forward a number of options to resolve this issue in consultation with statutory bodies. Agreement has been reached to deal with this unforeseen matter and both cost and delay is minimal to the overall project timeframe.

“Council has allocated a budget for such unforeseen risk and the option agreed may have localised delay within the current works which council will attempt to mitigate moving forward,” the spokesperson added.

It also emerged, last week, that night time working is now underway on the Public Realm Scheme to transform the streetscape of four core town centre streets.

It was revealed in an update on the multi-million pound Ballymena scheme to Mid & East Antrim’s Growth & Development Committee meeting last Monday night, that, due to the nature and complexity of the works, and the narrow nature of streets involved, “a considerable amount” of the work had transferred to night time - at no cost to Council.

Members also heard that while there are “a number of issues still to be improved”, the communication process with businesses has been “noticeably improved”.

It was pointed out that over and above visits from council officers and weekly communication drops from the contractor, a series of additional forums are open to businesses including monthly meetings with council officers and the contractor organised by the Chamber of Commerce.

Members were reminded that the scheme, which started on May 25, aimed to make Ballymena ‘fit for purpose for the next 15-20 years’ and centred on four main streets - Wellington Street, Ballymoney Street, Church Street and Broughshane Street - each broken down into four work sections.

The committee heard that works on the first section on all four streets were 80% complete with the remaining 20% relating to curved kerbs at street ends, special granite slabs for vehicle access points and drainage granite inlays, due at the end of October.

Members were also told that each section is scheduled for 12 weeks which will see the second sections completed by the moratorium deadline of November 16, and that councillors had already approved Church Street is resourced to clear by Ballymena Discount Day - Thursday, November 5.

In addition to work on the four core town centre streets, works to tranform the Broadway Bandstand to create public space and a main focal point for the town centre are also included in the scheme.

It is understood this will involve a ‘canopy development’ aimed at maximising space at the triangular-shaped site at the top end of the town by incorporating seating on edges of the site which will be partially covered by a copper canopy providing up to four times more coverage than the current bandstand structure.

It is also understood another element of the proposals is the introduction of a one-way system for Thomas Street.