Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Carrickmore Road, Ballycastle - Public v Private Tussle


Fairhead is an iconic feature of our natural landscape and Carrickmore Road, formerly known as Old Colliery Road, is traveled by walkers and drivers on a very regular basis to take in the view. At present, those who are unable to walk to the end of the road for a view uninterrupted by a town-house can do so by vehicle. 

If TransportNI succumb to pressure to abandon part of this public road such an opportunity may no longer be possible. I've seen an elderly driver parked there for a short time but it's most unlikely this privilege and right is being abused. 

Abandonment automatically removes a right of way and any other arrangement would be dependent on the goodwill of a local council and a private owner.

TransportNI in Coleraine recently wrote to those who had submitted written objections:

Direct Line: (028) 7034 1334

Your letter of objection dated xx April 2015 in respect of the above abandonment refers.

Please be advised that in an attempt to resolve the objections received in respect of The Carrickmore Road Abandonment Order, TransportNl is convening a meeting which it is hoped you can attend on the 24 November 2015 in the Mayor's Parlour, former Moyle District Council Offices, Sheskburn House, 7 Mary Street, Ballycastle, BT54 6QH commencing at 7pm.

As well as TransportNl, the Objectors and the Applicant and/or his representative will also be in attendance.

If the date set for the meeting does not suit you, can you please arrange for someone else to air your views on your behalf."

Councillors whom I've contacted were not impressed that this TransportNI meeting coincided with a full meeting of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council. After all, councillors - as guardians of the public interest - can't be in two places at the same time. TransportNI has been asked to change the date but has declined.

If you signed the petition and want to ensure that your voice is heard you might wish to go along on Tuesday, 24 November. I'm told that those who signed the petition are considered to be objectors and will be welcome at this meeting. Even though they will not have received individual invitations, it is understood that the invitation extends to them.

The initial request for abandonment was for 300m of Carrickmore Road all the way to the North Star Dyke but this was later reduced to 70m. Here are some interesting snippets from official correspondence:

"I would see the process of abandonment as a waste of Roads Services valuable resources, particularly for your section, given the anticipated local objection. Considerable consultation with sister agencies would be required, including NIEA, Planning Service, Tourist Board, Moyle District Council, and much more I suspect. Much publicity would also follow given the depth of feeling about the loss of amenity, etc.

The road is not causing us in Section any maintenance grief and I have no issue with it being retained as a public road." .. John McKinley, DRDNI, 16 December 2009

"A copy of your request i.e. to abandon a stretch of Carrickmore Road leading to Marconi's cottage was referred to our senior management team recently for their consideration. Roads Service sees no public advantage in progressing this request as initial inquiries show local opposition to such a proposal including objection from Moyle District Council.

In the mid '90s a similar but much smaller scale proposal failed for the same reasons as noted above.

Unless the 'applicant' can demonstrate the acceptability of abandonment to Council/adjacent owners/local public, etc., we do not intend to progress this request any further." .. Mary Craig, DRDNI, 25 January 2010.

Moyle District Council subsequently and by a small margin decided not to oppose abandonment but the 1100+ petitioners and other objectors wish that no portion of Carrickmore Road be abandoned.

Added 19 November 2015


I refer to previous correspondence in relation to the above matter ending with our invitation letter dated 3rd November 2015.

Please be advised TransportNl has been made aware that our proposed meeting on Tuesday 24th November coincides with a Causeway Coast and Glens Council meeting on the same evening in Coleraine.

As previously outlined the aim of the meeting is to discuss concerns expressed by you and your fellow objectors regarding the proposed abandonment. Some objectors have requested councillors to speak on their behalf and in order for the Department to remain fair and impartial with all parties, this request has to be recognised.

Consequently the meeting on Tuesday 24th November has been cancelled and will now be held on Wednesday 13th January 2016 in the Council Boardroom in Sheskburn House, 7 Mary Street, Ballycastle commencing as before at 7.00pm.

I apologise for the late cancellation notice and any subsequent inconvenience this may cause.

As before, if you are unable to attend the meeting you may nominate a replacement to voice your objection.

Yours sincerely,

There's no mention of the complaints made by councillors from several parties that the meeting should be rescheduled so that they could attend as elected representatives; such complaints were initially rebuffed. Presumably petitioners will also be welcomed.