Answers sought over borough's roads repair budget

Archive image.
Archive image.

Ulster Unionist MLA John Stewart has sought clarification over an alleged “disparity” in roads repair projects across Mid and East Antrim.

It comes after the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) published figures of planned resurfacing schemes for 2018-2019 in Ballymena, Carrickfergus and Larne.

The East Antrim representative said: “I and my party pushed really hard for a major increase in the roads maintenance budget for this financial year, given the recent years of underfunding and the state of much of our local road network after the freezing winter weather. This was successful in that in the budget announced in March, roads maintenance, which is the responsibility of DfI, received a significant uplift in funding for 2018/19.

“I have been seeking detailed information from the Department for Infrastructure, Roads about planned resurfacing schemes in East Antrim since the budget was finalised, because my office has been absolutely inundated with complaints about potholes and road defects right across East Antrim.

"I was told that the information would be available after the Roads Report was presented to the Council by the DfI in June. Now that it has been published online, I have to say that the lack of planned schemes in both the Larne and Carrickfergus districts is massively disappointing. On first look there appears to be a significant disparity in favour of Ballymena in terms of the resurfacing or surface treatment of pavements and carriageways.

“The main road network maintenance budgets are the resurfacing (£2.5m) and the roads recovery fund (£1m). Out of these two funding streams Ballymena has 15 schemes covering 15.6km of road, while Larne has five schemes covering 2.1km, and Carrickfergus has only two schemes covering 1.3km of road.

“Whilst I appreciate that Ballymena is a larger area and does cover a wide rural hinterland, I nevertheless think that the ratepayers of East Antrim deserve an explanation.

“I have written to the Northern Divisional Roads Manager asking for an explanation and seeking assurances that should further funding become available through monitoring rounds during the year, extra resurfacing should be carried out in East Antrim."

Responding, a DFI spokesperson said: “The Department has received a letter from John Stewart MLA seeking a detailed explanation about our system for allocating road resurfacing funding in Mid and East Antrim Council area. A response will be issued directly to him; however, it is worth noting that we allocate maintenance funding based on a range of factors such as traffic volume, classification of the road, engineering test results on the trunk road network and the presence of defects, and in particular clusters of defects.

"Our priority is to address road and footway maintenance in order of greatest need, the locations of which can vary from year to year - for example last year our resurfacing outturn was higher in Larne than Ballymena. DfI Roads will continue to ensure that our limited resources are targeted effectively and fairly.”