A LOCAL MLA has made an impassioned plea for money to be spent improving accident blackspots along the A20 road from Newtownards to Portaferry.

Strangford MLA Michelle McIlveen made her appeal on the floor of the Assembly after securing a debate on road safety along the road. During her speech Miss McIlveen raised a number of concerns including flooding, coastal erosion, pedestrian safety and driver safety.

The former Executive Minister said during the last eight months there have been nine closures on the road and there have also been a large number of accidents and incidents which did not result in road closures.

Five of the closures were caused by traffic accidents with cars going off the road on two occasions, while the other four closures were because of flooding. 

Miss McIlveen also highlighted the number of fatalities on the road and the number of vehicles which have left the road in recent years. Coastal erosion and flooding at various locations also impacted  on driver safety and road integrity, she explained.

The DUP MLA said the most recent review of the speed took place in 2017, however the vast majority of the incidents she spoke of occurred since 2020.

“There is a danger with being a slave to policy and that is a danger that is being passed on to road users of the Portaferry Road,” said Miss McIlveen.

She said a number of incidents had taken place in the vicinity of Teal Rocks, a development of more than 170 houses on the edge of Newtownards.  

“Planning permission has been obtained for an additional 100 houses in a neighbouring piece of land which will use the Teal Rocks exit onto the A20,” Miss McIlveen said.

“This residential junction opens onto a 60mph road and there are understandable concerns that more vehicles exiting will increase the risk of further collisions at this junction”. 

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI), she continued, needed to seriously examine the way it spends money.  

“We have £80m spent to date on the A5 with not a sod cut, £24m on the York Street Interchange again with not a sod cut,” she said.

“While I appreciate the challenge with each of those projects, a small portion of any of those budgets would make huge improvements to safety along the Portaferry Road”.

She implored DfI to stop slavishly following policy and to address the risks to the public. “We could start by moving the national speed limit to actually take into account the settlement limit of Newtownards,” Miss McIlveen said. 

It is not good enough to be blaming driver error – there are blind corners and blind hills which could be engineered out with appropriate design and funding,” she said. “We don’t need a major dualling scheme – we just need a safe road.”

Three other Strangford MLA’s spoke during the debate – Kellie Armstrong, Harry Harvey and Nick Mathison.

Mrs Armstrong said the Portaferry Road snaked around Strangford Lough and was ‘not very forgiving’. “If a driver makes a mistake they will end up either in the lough or against one of the walls,” she remarked.

Mr Harvey said the road was ‘one of the most dangerous stretches of roadway’ in the Strangford constituency.

“Schoolchildren from the Teal Rocks development are taking their life in their hands on a daily basis as they cross the road for school buses,” he said.

Mr Mathison said the speed limit on the road needs to be reviewed urgently.