TRANSPORT Minister Danny Kennedy has acknowledged the impact the A8 upgrade scheme will have on landowners along the route of the new dual carriageway.
Earlier this year the Minister ruled that the £100m project should go ahead, despite significant public opposition to the planned construction of a whole new section of road to the west of Ballynure.
Residents, landowners and businesspeople in the village objected to the by-pass section of the route, arguing that it will destroy farms and have a detrimental impact on businesses. They branded the sheer scale of the project an unnecessary waste of public money.
Speaking at the official start of work on the scheme last week, Mr Kennedy said he recognised people’s concerns, but stressed that the road upgrade is vital for the local economy.
“I would like to acknowledge the impact that this scheme has had on the affected landowners; in some cases this impact has been significant in terms of land loss. I would thank them for their co-operation to date and in anticipation of their continued co-operation throughout the construction period,” he said.
Speaking to the Times after the launch event, he continued: “I am always conscious that there are people, individual landowners, who would feel concerned, but I hope in the longer term that they will see what we are doing here to improve the overall local economy and boost it in terms of jobs and make it more accessible, particularly the Port of Larne.
“It is for the greater good, yet I understand their concerns. Land issues are always important and I hope very much that we can resolve any outstanding difficulties in terms of accommodating work.”
He added: “I think the potential this scheme has for the entire area and for the region is very exciting. It’s long overdue. It’s been lobbied for, it’s been fought for and debated for the best part of nearly 30 years, so I’m very pleased to be the Minister that’s bringing it forward and making it actually happen.
“I think it will help travel times obviously for the commuters; it will also help local businesses in terms of the movement of people and goods.”