Whatever happened to Cookstown bypass plan?

The busy Cookstown main street.INTT3913-388SR
The busy Cookstown main street.INTT3913-388SR

FRUSTRATION is growing after delays have hit Cookstown’s long-awaited bypass, plans for which were first announced thirty-five years ago.

Roads Minister Danny Kennedy has warned that the delivery of the scheme will be dependant upon future funding proposals, and will have to compete with more high profile road plans such as the Belfast to Londonderry route and the York Street Exchange.

For the last number of decades, residents and politicians have been clamouring to have a bypass built.

UUP MLA Sandra Overend has highlighted the bottlenecks that occur on the town’s roads and the detrimental effect on local businesses.

The Cookstown politician had hoped that the collapse of the A5 road scheme would have freed up funding for the project.

Mrs Overend said in light of the announcement by the DRD Minister that there will be no appeal of the court decision which means that the A5 cannot go ahead at this time, she was strongly urging the Minister to bid to include bypasses for Mid-Ulster’s two major towns in his immediate agenda.

The MLA said she is convinced that giving the green light to a bypasss for Cookstown would have a positive impact on the construction industry, as well as opening up the town centre for potential consumers, and allowing commuters to move freely between destinations.

“Now more than ever Mid-Ulster requires this infrastructure to benefit local people, businesses and industries,” she said.

Mrs Overend said she has reiterated her calls to the minister to have the bypass funding prioritised.

In response to a question asked by DUP MLA Ian McCrea at the Northern Ireland Assembly, Minister Kennedy said the Roads Service had already carried out geotechnical investigations and a detailed topographical survey of the area.

“I am keen to progress this scheme. However, the pace at which the A29 Cookstown Bypass is progressed, and its delivery, will be dependent upon the availability of funding in future budget periods and advancement through the normal statutory processes.

“It will compete for funding with other important schemes, such as those on the A6 Belfast to Londonderry route, the York Street Interchange, A2 Sydenham Bypass and Ballynahinch Bypass, amongst other schemes across Northern Ireland.”

The estimated cost of the proposed Cookstown eastern distributor is in the range of £35 million to £45 million, and the estimated cost of the Magherafelt bypass is between £28 million and £40 million.

Work had been expected to get underway in 2013/14.

The Roads Service Western Division has commissioned consultancy group Mouchel to progress the design of the bypass, plans for which were first published in 1978.

In 2010, local people had the chance to view the four route corridors and their variations, as well as the proposed Sandholes link corridor, which was intended to improve the link between the A505 Omagh road and the bypass.