Park-and-ride picket if safety fears are not met

The site of the Park and Ride project at Millbrook.  INLT 51-853-BM
The site of the Park and Ride project at Millbrook. INLT 51-853-BM

A MILLBROOK man has claimed that locals will picket a park-and-ride facility which is presently under construction.

Final planning permission has not been granted for the commuter facility. In January, County Hall is expected to inform Larne Borough Council’s public services committee – which has a consultative role – whether or not the parking bay for up to 84 vehicles will be allowed at Old Belfast Road.

Earlier this month, planners told the council that they intended to grant approval for the DRD Roads Service project, but acceded to DUP councillor Gregg McKeen’s call for an adjournment, enabling a meeting on Friday, December 16 which was called to hear the views of residents who had lodged 18 letters of objection.

However, Mark Anderson, who has attended two consultation meetings to date, has said he believes concerns and suggestions put by objectors were “ignored” and claimed the scheme was being “forced on the residents of Millbrook against their will”.

“A slight change to the bus routes and the whole need for coming to Millbrook to catch a bus would be removed and this money could be put to better use,” he wrote in a letter to the Larne Times.

“The rationale behind the project is because there are currently about 12 cars coming from Larne every day to park at Millbrook to catch the Belfast Express bus to work, leaving their cars parked along the Old Belfast Road. Their solution is to build an 84-space car park,” he added.

The Millbrook man said objectors’ questions regarding child safety, traffic calming, property values and intensification of traffic volumes had not been addressed. He added: “We will be setting up a protest group against their park-and-ride scheme, and we will picket their site if needs be, until they satisfy our issues.”

Mr Anderson, who suggested a busy-bus service from Linn Road to Larne bus station as an alternative, added: “We are well aware that these people are trying to travel to their work every day and making the best of a currently bad situation. They are more than welcome to come to Millbrook if they have to, and if we could accommodate them with a scheme that did not endanger local children, we would do so without hesitation.”

Planning permission was originally granted for a park-and-ride accessed by buses and commuters from the A8, which raised no objections from residents. However, it emerged that Roads Service would have to pay a six-figure sum to move BT fibre-optic cabling and the Government agency submitted an amended scheme to Planning Service.

To begin with, the amended proposal was for all traffic to access the car park from Old Belfast Road, but after complaints it was altered again so that buses would access from Belfast Road as they do at present, and cars from Old Belfast Road via the Drumahoe Road junction.

Cllr McKeen said: “The ideal situation would have been the original scheme, with all traffic going into the park-and-ride direct from the A8, but there were problems with it. The first amended scheme would have had everything coming in to the Old Belfast Road and under this latest scheme only cars will do that.

“I can understand both points of view and we have had three meetings now with Roads Service when everybody had opportunities to put their points of view. I asked for last week’s meeting after the planners came to the council with it listed for approval.

“Some residents in Millbrook are for the scheme and some are against. The main concern is that traffic on the Old Belfast Road will increase. I share that concern, but Roads Service have said that they will put in a traffic island and the possibility of traffic calming. I want traffic calming installed there to stop it being used by boy racers.”