THERE has been a development in the story about the impact of a road closure in the Harryville area at a time when businesses are seeking to bounce back from coronavirus restrictions.
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said a complete road closure will be reduced from ten weeks to five weeks.
Previously, traders in the Larne Street area of Harryville had called for the scheme to be delayed to allow them get back on their feet following the lifting of lockdown.
In a new development, Ms Mallon said although the works will still continue – they are due to start on Monday August 10 – the timescale for the proposed complete closure of the road has been halved.
In a letter to North Antrim TUV MLA Jim Allister – whose office is based in Harryville – Ms Mallon said: ‘As you are aware, a £300k reconstruction and resurfacing scheme for Larne Street, James Street and Alfred Street Place in Ballymena is due to commence on Monday 10 August 2020.
‘You may not be aware that it had been our intention to complete this scheme in previous years but it was delayed until various utilities completed their works to try to reduce the risk of the newly laid surface having to be dug up again soon after the completion of the works.
‘With the passage of time the road is now in an extremely poor condition and therefore needs reconstructed as well as resurfaced, as a matter of urgency.
‘When the works were initially planned it was to be carried out using a 10 week road closure. However, my officials have been working with the contractor and I am now able
to confirm that most of the work will be completed using lane closures, and a full road
closure will be in place from Monday 19 October 2020 until Friday 20 November 2020,
a period of just under 5 weeks.
‘I have been assured that local access to shops will be facilitated and the contractor will be able to accommodate deliveries to shops.
‘I have also asked and been assured that business owners will be kept informed about the planned activities and the likely impact on road users throughout the works.
‘A further letter drop has recently been completed to ensure that residents and businesses in the area are aware of the updated work plan.
‘I do understand the impacts of road closures, and the significant impact COVID 19 has had and continues to have on businesses in particular. However this road is in a very poor condition and needs to be reconstructed.
‘I have asked my officials to ensure that the contractor completes the work as quickly as possible and keeps the local business owners informed about progress and accommodates access and deliveries as far as practicable.
‘The delivery of this road scheme, estimated at £300k, will also help the construction industry who, like many other businesses, have suffered significantly throughout the period of the Covid restrictions,’ said Ms Mallon.
In response, Jim Allister said: “Whereas the decision to proceed with the Larne Street project at this time shows inadequate regard to the post-COVID trading needs of the local businesses, their concerns have been somewhat addressed by halving the period of complete road closure to 5 weeks.
“I will be holding the department strictly to the undertakings now made and trust we will not see the slippage often associated with road improvement schemes.”
Ballymena TUV representative, Cllr Matthew Armstrong, said: “While I welcome the reduction in the complete closure, I’m frustrated that numerous attempts have been made this week to clarify with DFI Roads how shop deliveries and customers will be facilitated, to date these have been met with silence.”
“I urge DFI as a priority to clarify what is happening on Monday and the communication link that will be used for shop owners and residents to raise any concerns.”
In a press release issued on Thursday the Department had said a £300,000 reconstruction and resurfacing scheme for Larne Street, James Street and Alfred Street Place, Ballymena will commence on Monday 10 August 2020.
It added: ‘The scheme extends from Gilmore Street Junction to the zebra crossing at Casement Street and will involve the reconstruction of Larne Street and the resurfacing of James Street and Alfred Street Place, a distance of approximately 450 metres. Work is expected to be completed by Friday 27 November 2020.
‘Lane closures will be in operation for much of the scheme and due to the nature of the works, it will be necessary to introduce a full road closure from Monday 19 October 2020 until Friday 20 November 2020. Local access will be facilitated and the contractor will be able to accommodate deliveries to shops within the works area.
‘During the road closure a diversion will be in operation along Gilmore Street, Queen Street and Wakehurst Road.
‘The Department understands the impacts of road closures, and the significant impact Covid-19 has, and continues to have, on businesses in the area. These roads, however, are in very poor condition and need reconstructed and resurfaced urgently. The Department will ensure that the contractor completes this work as quickly as possible and that local business owners are kept informed of progress.
‘The Department has programmed the work operations and traffic management arrangements to minimise inconvenience, however, road users should expect some delays and are advised to allow additional time when travelling in the area.
‘In order to help ensure the safety of road users and road workers the public is asked to comply with all temporary traffic restrictions and to take extra care when travelling in the vicinity of the works.
‘The dates and duration of the works will be dependent on favourable weather conditions. All work will be carried out in line with current public health and safety advice with safe systems of working in place for staff and contractors.
For traffic information about this and other road schemes visit: www.trafficwatchni.com’