Residents angered over bridge plans for dual carriageway

FOOTBRIDGE OUTRAGE

By Iain Gray

RESIDENTS of Ards’ Bangor Road fear their lives will be made a misery by a council move to build a footbridge from their homes over the dual carriageway.

The radical reworking of the area is part of Ards and North Down Council’s mooted £3.85m greenway route between Newtownards and Conlig’s Green Road.

Current plans will see the greenway travel north from Newtownards along a disused railway line, and the council wants to build a footbridge stretching across the Bangor Road dual carriageway, linking the pedestrian and cycling route with Whitespots Country Park and the Somme Centre.

But the council intends to build the bridge close to a development of houses set back from the dual carriageway, which has outraged residents of the area.

Householder David McAnirn says: “This is going to have a huge impact on our security and our privacy; people will easily be able to see into our properties from up on that bridge.

“That’s to say nothing of the disruption to what is a quiet area.

“We don’t disagree with the greenway in principle, but weren’t even consulted in advance about a massive industrial construction next to our homes. The first we heard about it was when the council filed its planning application.

“It’s the same as what the council wanted to do with the greenway on North Down’s Coastal Path; massive irrevocable changes to the area, but little to no consultation with the people who live there – and officials won’t budge on it.”

The council says that it has carried out all the consultation it’s required to, but adds that it ‘welcomes ongoing engagement’ with residents.

That hasn’t mollified the people of the area, who complain they’ve been asking for traffic calming measures in the area for years, only to be ignored and confronted with the greenway footbridge instead.

According to Mr McAnirn, residents would prefer new traffic lights with a puffin crossing in the area, combined with an extension of a nearby 40mph speed limit to cover the dual carriageway’s junction with their road.

“We can’t understand why the authorities won’t listen to us, and instead want to impose this footbridge on us,” he added.

Residents are also worried that a car park the council wants to build next to the footbridge will become a magnet for anti-social behaviour.

“There’s a car park at Whitespots which already has long-running problems with anti-social behaviour,” said Mr Anirn. “There have been incidents there as recently as this month.

“The council hasn’t been able to reassure us that the same won’t happen with this new car park it wants to put right next to our homes.”

Residents have been backed by Strangford MLA Nick Mathison, who says he’s been working on the issue for some time in an attempt to get the council to come to a compromise solution.

He said: “I share residents’ concerns that this bridge proposal represents poor value for money, and will result in the construction of unnecessary concrete infrastructure to connect two projects that otherwise have great environmental potential.

“There is a clear precedent for building pedestrian crossings on the dual carriageway; it has already happened [at its Conlig junction]. I would urge the council and their funder, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) to look at that option again.

“The Whitespots redevelopment is a fantastic project for the Newtownards area; I am also a big supporter of the greenway project, which offers great benefits in terms of access to the natural environment and promoting active travel.

“Surely the council and the DfI can work together to fund a better solution for connecting these projects, other than an unnecessary concrete construction?”