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£2.5m public realm scheme shelved

A controversial investment plan for a County Derry town looks set to be shelved after coming under sustained opposition from the local community.

£2.5m public realm scheme shelved

An artist's drawing of the one way proposals in the £2.5 million public realm scheme which was planned for Maghera.

A controversial investment plan for a County Derry town looks set to be shelved after coming under sustained opposition from the local community.

Plans to spend £2.5m introducing a one-way system in Maghera were unveiled by Mid Ulster Council in July 2018 with Belfast-based RPS Consulting Engineers appointed to oversee the process.

However, pressure from local businesses, schools and public representatives have forced the Council back to backtrack on the idea of a Public Realm Scheme.

Patsy McGlone, MLA for Mid Ulster, welcomed the change, saying the scheme was flawed from its inception.

He said: “The proposal that was being pushed by the consultants on behalf of the council was a one-way system.

“A public realm scheme was starting out as a traffic management scheme rather than a scheme to improve and enhance the town.”

A period of public consultation had begun in July 2019, with Mid Ulster Council claiming the proposals generated ‘significant interest’ among residents and businesses in Maghera and an information evening was held last November.

Recent roadworks are thought to have brought the scheme’s potential problems into sharp focus for business owners and residents. McGlone said the community have been making their voices heard in a series of recent meetings.

He said: “Anyone in recent days who has been at the upper end of Maghera, Fairhill, Glen Road area will see what that a one-way system will cause for Maghera – traffic bedlam.

“We have had numerous meetings with council officials and Cllr Martin Kearney and myself had a meeting a fortnight ago with representatives from the Department of Communities (DfC).

“That meeting was attended by a number of local businesses from Upper Main St and representatives from the parish and school.

“The DfC heard very clearly that this was not a good idea and I think the council and its consultants have got the message.”

In a statement, Mid Ulster Council said: “The Public Realm Scheme plans are at outline design stage.

“The Council is currently reviewing the design options following consultations before Christmas and hopes to bring design options forward once the reviews are completed.

“NIE have installed a current temporary one-way system for a number of days on Upper Main Street Maghera to enable their improvements to the NIE infrastructure.

“The temporary traffic management system is currently being monitored by Department for Infrastructure (Roads) personnel.

“For any related traffic issues, members of the public should contact NIE or DFI Roads who authorise all Street Work Permits for such work.”

Despite the setback, Patsy McGlone is hopeful a revision of the proposals can deliver much-needed investment in Maghera.

He said: “It was a silly idea but there are loads of opportunities for Maghera and loads of opportunities for a Public Realm Scheme, so let’s work this one through.

“Let’s make sure this time that those in charge of this scheme are listening to the local community and drawing on their very positive views.

“I’ll be there to support the local community in that regard.”

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