Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Is draft town centre plan a master-flop?

“Flawed vision”, “badly timed” and “a waste of tax payers’ money” were the reactions of residents and politicians to Bangor’s town centre draft masterplan following a public meeting last week.

Harbour Ward Community Association (HWCA) held the meeting on January 18 in a bid to clarify the proposals with a Department of Social Development (DSD) representative before the consultation period came to a close — however many who attended said they felt “let down” by the proposals.

Likening the draft masterplan to “cosmetic surgery for a heart patient”, independent councillor Austen Lennon called for the entire scheme to be scrapped until the town’s traffic and congestion problems had been sorted out.

Mr Lennon said: “Goodness knows how much time and money has been invested into the masterplan that in my opinion only tinkers with the town’s aesthetics and provides no real solution to the problems facing the town — mainly traffic and parking.

“This masterplan is not the picture of the town that is needed and in no way has there been enough consultation carried out to deliver what is needed.”

HWCA member and Green Party leader Steven Agnew said the proposals were “a flawed vision”. “The most pressing issues were those of traffic management and parking. I have spoken to Roads Service about the proposals and they have expressed major concerns about the plans for Southwell Road and also about the plans to make Hamilton Road two way.

“I am somewhat reassured that Roads Service will be taking part in the consultation process.”

Bangor resident Dave Reilly complained there was no legislative power to the masterplan and wondered what commitments would the Planning Service give to stand by the masterplan when developers came forward. “If the masterplan has no legislative power and limited sway over the planning service, could someone tell me what exactly is the benefit of it to us as ratepayers and how much has this cost to do?”

A spokesman said the DSD had, in 2009, commissioned Scott Wilson Consultants to produce the masterplan for£81,528, which included detailed assessments of the town’s retail health, capacity, evening economy, residential and business sectors.”

He refuted any suggestion that there had been a lack of consultation saying the consultants had met stakeholders from the public, business and community sectors and that the plans had been put on display in Bangor library and on the DSD and North Down Borough Council websites.

The DSD spent £58,912 on identifying solutions to traffic congestion arising from the masterplan and the spokesman expressed surprise that there were concerns as the consultants confirmed that the proposals had been tested through the traffic model and were deliverable with some road improvements.

He said the Department was arranging another public session involving the traffic consultants to specifically discuss this issue.

“The Department also refutes that the masterplan is a waste of money.”

He said the plan would form the basis for DSD’s and North Down Council’s decisions regarding urban regeneration initiatives in the town for the next 15 years. Although not a policy document when finalised the plan will be formally sent to the Planning Service for them to consider as part of any future planning application.

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