It makes no sense to remove the protected road corridor in Dundonald in order to build yet more homes

Anyone who knows Dundonald will be aware of the huge number of houses that have been constructed over the past ten years.

Friday, 29th November 2019, 12:06 pm
Updated Friday, 29th November 2019, 1:16 pm
Protected road corridor in Dundonald. The coloured line shows the protected land where a road might go between Comber Road, bottom left, and Newtownards Road, top right. Developers want the protection removed to build homes

These developments put increasing pressure on the road infrastructure in the local area, which is already close to breaking point at peak times.

Thankfully the previous generation foresaw this and put in place a ‘road protection corridor’ for a link road between Quarry Corner and the Comber Road in the 1969 Belfast Transportation Plan.

A ‘corridor’ does not mean that the road will be built, but it does mean that land is reserved in case it is even needed — because, of course, it is almost impossible to build a new road through an area after it’s been developed.

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Wesley Johnston, who writes extensively about roads, at the M3 Flyover in Belfast city centr holding his book about the N Ireland motorway system. Pic Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

When the time finally came to build houses on the land around the corridor, the current planning document was the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP) 2015, and it too continued to reserve the land.

Therefore both Coopers Mill and Millmount Village have been built with a strip of land kept free through them to allow the construction of this road. This is clearly visible in Google Earth.

The BMAP even stipulated that “Developers will be responsible for funding the [link road] either in full or in a substantial part.”

In other words, the developers of these houses would be required to build, or at least fund, the road.

This did not happen — despite multiple planning applications being approved, at no point was BMAP’s stipulation acted upon.

Provision of this road has not been made a condition of planning and so, despite the land being free, it has not yet been built.

This represents a failure of the planning services.

There is still time to correct this mistake. However, it emerged this summer that Fraser Homes (one of the developers) is proposing that the land protection corridor be deleted and that they be allowed to build extra houses on the strip of land reserved for the link road.

They argued that the link road had only been intended as a route for Rapid Transit, and that as this was now on the Newtownards Road, it was no longer required.

This is disingenuous — while it is true that the corridor was suggested as a route for Rapid Transit, the road itself was always planned as an all-purpose road and has been since 1969.

They also argued that traffic wanting to go between Newtownards Road and Comber Road — likely to be substantial — could be accommodated by the residential roads that will eventually weave their way between the two through Coopers Mill and Millmount. But this is essentially a plan to deliberately encourage rat-running by large volumes of traffic through a brand-new residential area.

At this stage the Department for Infrastructure has yet to decide whether to allow this, so there is still time for the corridor to be saved.

It is easy to see what a property developer might stand to gain from releasing additional land for housing.

What is not so easy to see is how doing so would serve the interests of the Dundonald community or the thousands of people who will be moving into these homes.

It surely makes no sense to remove all possibility of improving the infrastructure in the town by such a short-sighted move.

• Wesley Johnston has written extensively about roads