A DELEGATION from Magherafelt District Council and the Chamber of Commerce met with Minister Danny Kennedy to lobby for the construction of the Magherafelt by-pass.
Council chairman Councillor Ian Milne said Magherafelt is strategically located in the centre of Northern Ireland, within easy reach of the Provinces main airports and harbours.
“The high volumes of traffic going through the town each day is putting Magherafelt town centre under significant pressure and is causing severe congestion. It is essential that the town gets a bypass so that it can be sustainable in the future,” he said.
“The Magherafelt bypass scheme was first proposed in 1976 with consultants being appointed in 2006 to progress the scheme design.
“ It will see a single-carriageway bypass being constructed around the eastern edge of the town connecting Moneymore Road and Castledawson Road. A public enquiry was held in 2009.”
Councillor Paul Mclean stated that “the scheme has been on the table for over 30 years now and is long overdue.”
Mr Ryan Dougan, Chair of Magherafelt Town Centre Forum, said: “The delegation had a very positive meeting with the Minister who is fully aware of the need for a bypass in Magherafelt. As a representative of businesses in the town, it is obvious that the serious congestion is putting people off coming to Magherafelt to shop and spend their money.
“We essentially have a motorway coming through the centre of the town and this affects all businesses.
“It is also likely that the town centre will soon have to compete with a major supermarket store. This will bring more cars to the town and further increase pollution.
“In the difficult economic climate we are experiencing, it is even more important to make the town centre attractive and easy to get through. This can only be done through construction of a bypass.”
The Minister highlighted that he was revising the priority and programming of schemes in light of funding changes that have occurred.
The Magherafelt bypass scheme is in a strong position to progress quickly should funding become available as many of the statutory approvals have already been obtained.
He encouraged the delegation to maintain pressure on the Department and Executive so that the Magherafelt Bypass would be started as soon as possible.
An assessment report prepared for Roads Service in 2008 concluded that a Bypass scheme would reduce traffic flows through Magherafelt Town Centre by 25per cent.
Councillor George Shields explained that “if a bypass is not constructed the net effect of extending the M2 to Castledawson Roundabout is to push the blockage further down the pipe. In this case into Magherafelt Town. This will be catastrophic for the town.”
Mr Ian Henry, member of the Chamber of Commerce and local business owner said: “The current congestion means we can lose up to one hour in journey time from transporting materials and equipment through Magherafelt from our base to projects that we are delivering.
“This additional time adds to our costs and reduces the profitability of our business. We cannot afford for the situation to get any worse which will happen if a bypass is not constructed.”
The Regional Development Strategy 10-year review proposed a cluster approach whereby Cookstown would be the sub regional centre.
This approach of directing investment to Cookstown will increase the carbon footprint in Magherafelt as cars drive through Magherafelt to Cookstown. The resulting increased traffic will also lead to more congestion and further pollute and erode Magherafelt’s unique character if a bypass is nor constructed.