THREE government departments have finally agreed to provide a funding package of up to £100,000 to build a new bridge in Mallusk.
A number of Grange Lane residents were cut off when the existing bridge collapsed into the stream below last week.
The bridge, which provides access to six homes, had been steadily deteriorating over recent years, meaning residents were unable to access key services such as oil and gas deliveries, refuse collections and septic tank emptying. Concerns were also raised about how police, fire or ambulance crews would gain access to the area in the event of an emergency.
The collapse on Tuesday, April 23 damaged pipework under the bridge, temporarily cutting off the water supply to the homes, and an alternative means of vehicle access across nearby farmland had to be introduced.
Since the incident, a temporary bridge has been put in place by the Department for Regional Development as a stop-gap measure until work on a new structure has been completed.
Following a series of meetings over the past two years between residents, local councillors, MLAs and the MP for the area, the Department of the Environment (DOE), Department for Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and Department for Regional Development (DRD) have agreed to jointly meet the cost of the new bridge, with Newtownabbey Borough Council agreeing the manage the project.
Speaking about the collapse and the plans for the new bridge, Mayor Victor Robinson commented: “The council initiated our emergency plan on Tuesday to respond quickly to the bridge collapse. Working with the government departments, PSNI, Health Trust and NI Water we ensured that access and water were available for the residents quickly. We are continuing to work closely with the DoE, DARD and DRD to speed up the new build of the bridge. We have been in regular contact with residents this week to keep them up to date with the developments.”
Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: “With the exceptional nature of this situation and the humanitarian issues which have arisen it was essential that government shows good authority. That includes DOE now helping to coordinate a comprehensive resolution of the issue.”
Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill commented: “I am delighted that a solution has been found to the long-standing issue of the bridge at Grange Lane. Rivers Agency has done excellent work at the site over the past week in terms of facilitating temporary access for residents and I, along with my ministerial colleagues, have been successful in securing the funding required for a permanent replacement bridge.”
Regional Development Minister, Danny Kennedy added: “I was very concerned to hear about the plight of residents who depend on this private bridge.
“My department has contributed to a funding package to help replace the bridge. This joint initiative demonstrates how government can work together.”
The council and the government departments have stressed that they will have no ongoing responsibility or liability for maintenance of the bridge.
Meanwhile, at Monday evening’s (April 29) full council meeting, councillors Mark Cosgrove, John Blair and Noreen McClelland praised the council’s chief executive and officers, particularly project development manager Peter Kay, for their “positive and timely response” to the bridge collapse. They thanked the officers for ensuring that residents were able to access their homes, and for their work with NI Water to get the water supply reconnected as quickly as possible.
Councillor McClelland said that the residents of Grange Lane were “absolutely delighted with the cooperation from the council.”
“This was a fantastic example of residents, councillors, MLAs, Newtownabbey Borough Council officers and the Stormont Executive working together to create a one-off solution to a very complex issue,” councillor Cosgrove added.