Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

£20m paid out for lives shattered by A4 dual carriageway in Co Tyrone

A view of the A4 as Sadie Woods looks from her rear garden
A view of the A4 as Sadie Woods looks from her rear garden
Traffic races past a tunnel connecting a farmer's land which was cut in two by the road
Traffic races past a tunnel connecting a farmer's land which was cut in two by the road
A resident's house which is affected by traffic noise
A resident's house which is affected by traffic noise

More than £20m has been paid out in compensation to landowners and residents whose rural tranquillity has been shattered by a major new road.

Some 200 claims have been made by angry families and farmers living close to the £146m A4 dual carriageway in Co Tyrone.

The settlements include payments to those who lost land because of the scheme.

But a growing number are from people whose lives are being blighted by noise and vibration caused by traffic.

The effects have been so bad that masonry has fallen from some homes while residents are also resorting to sleeping tablets to get a full night's rest.

So far, 157 claims relating to the A4 have been settled by the Department for Regional Development with another 43 still in the system, Roads Minister Danny Kennedy revealed.

Mr Kennedy said the successful claims were made following vesting of lands for the new road. They include compensation.

He released the details in response to an Assembly question from DUP peer Lord Morrow.

The Belfast Telegraph has since learned that the compensation paid out to date totals £22,541,477.

Claims still in the system include 15 which relate directly to "injurious affection" on unvested land.

The new A4 opened in late 2010 and runs between Dungannon and Ballygawley. It replaced the old A4, a single carriageway plagued for years with accidents and congestion due to right-turning and slow-moving vehicles.

Spanning 13 miles, the path of the new road cuts through swathes of once unblemished countryside.

It now carries the bulk of traffic travelling between the east and west.

However, residents complain that the high volume of traffic is making their lives a misery, with some claiming they are being awoken at 3.30am.

One resident described how she was having dinner when a lorry thundered past, causing the plates and cutlery to shake and nearly fall off the table.

"There is a crack in the wall caused by the constant vibration," she added.

Another, Margaret Beschizza, said she can't even open her windows at night because of the din.

"If I want to let some fresh air in at night I can't because the noise from the road is so bad. It gets very stuffy and, at the age of 71, I really need my sleep," she said.

SDLP councillor Anthony McGonnell, who lives in the area, said the road had brought misery for many families.

"This was a quiet, rural landscape which has suddenly been transformed into a very noisy place," he said.

"There is traffic on the road at all times of the day and night and it is a situation which needs to be looked at."

DUP peer Lord Morrow, who obtained the figures, said those living close to the road should be compensated.

"A number of my constituents who were once accustomed to living in quiet countryside now find they are forced to endure heavy traffic thundering past their homes at all hours of the day and night, generating a large volume of noise," he said.

"Indeed in one instance it appears that masonry cracks are evident in a private residence as a result of vibration from traffic.

"There is no question noise levels have undoubtedly increased and these issues must be addressed by Roads Service."

Responding to Lord Morrow's question, Mr Kennedy said: "My department has received 185 claims for compensation for loss of property following vesting of lands in respect of the A4 dual carriageway, and the A4 Annaghilla and A5 Tullyvar Road realignments.

"Of these, 157 have been agreed under all heads of claim, including injurious affection to retained lands. Injurious affection includes, for example, severance and physical factors such as noise, vibration etc. My department is also in receipt of 15 further claims for injurious affection to properties where land has not been vested from the owner. None of these have been agreed for payment," he said.

What it's really like living alongside one of the busiest routes in Northern Ireland... four local people tell their stories

Interviews: Michelle Smyth, Adrian Rutherford and Mark Waraich

The pensioner

Sadie Woods lives right on the edge of the A4 close to the Quinn's Corner area.

The 78-year-old pensioner said the new road has isolated her.

She added that if she was not able to drive she wouldn't be able to go anywhere because it is too dangerous for her to walk any further than the end of her driveway.

"I have been compensated for loss of land. They had to build the road through a field I owned," she said.

"The noise really annoyed me at the start but I have gotten used to it.

"They made a tunnel and a slip road so we could safely access the A4 but the tunnel only has room for one car – if you meet a car when you are half-way though you have to reverse back out," she added.

The farmer

Farmer Dessie McGartland, who lives off the old Ballygawley Road, had no choice but to sell land to make way for the A4.

He surrendered 10 acres so the A4 could pass through one of his fields, which is now split in two.

Roads Service has built a tunnel so he can travel from one to the other, but he says this is a major inconvenience.

Mr McGartland revealed he also had to sell his herd of dairy cows when he lost his land – a huge blow to his income.

"Roads Service took 10 acres from me but they paid for whatever they took," he said.

"I'm not going to tell you how much that was but it's widely known around here. When they took the land from me, property prices were at their peak. I'm sure the farmers who are affected by the new A5 road will not get as much compensation as I did.

"I really had no choice about keeping my land, they can do whatever they like," he said.

The family

Another resident, a neighbour of Mr McGartland's, who did not wish to be named, said her husband lost his entire farm as a result of the new road.

The family, who are separated from the road by a towering fence, also lost a considerable chunk of their garden to the dual carriageway.

They were compensated but their quality of life has suffered.

"My husband grew up on that farm and has worked on it all his life," she said.

"I remember sitting at the kitchen table and crying about it all. It just shows that you don't ever really own anything, the government can do what it likes and you can't do a thing about it."

Apart from losing land, she now feels cut off from a community she was part of for so long.

"On top of my husband losing his livelihood, the new road cut us off from everyone," she added.

"All of our neighbours now live at the other side of the road and going to see them involves a complete detour."

Summer barbecues can't be contemplated.

"The terrible noise means we cannot sit out in the garden, it's just not enjoyable. We also have to keep the curtains closed for privacy as people driving down the carriageway can see right into our house," she added.

"I'm not silly, I understand that roads have to go somewhere and I'm glad that the death rate is lower as a result of this new road," she said.

The father of three

Paul Adamson has not had a full night's sleep since the road opened nearly two-and-a-half years ago.

The father of two lives at Lisbeg Road outside Ballygawley – just yards from the road. He has repeatedly asked Roads Service officials to install sound barriers or plants to dull the noise.

But tests carried out at his home recorded a sound level of 64 decibels – four below the required level. Mr Adamson said he has not submitted a compensation claim because all he wants is a proper night's sleep.

"It would drive you absolutely crackers from 4am every morning.

"I can honestly say that from that road opened in November 2010 I haven't had a full night's sleep. I'm off today and yet I was woken by the noise of a big lorry at five this morning. There is no such thing as a lie-in any more."

Mr Adamson described a particularly noisy night where he was woken before 3.30am.

"At 3.23am I woke up to what I thought was a helicopter overhead, until I heard a gear change – that is how bad it was," he added.

"If the wind is blowing in our direction it's even worse. You could nearly count the cars and lorries passing by.

"I was on sleeping tablets but the doctor won't give me any more. It has got to the stage where I don't need an alarm clock because the noise from the road wakes me before it goes off.

"It is affecting everyone in the area. People are very angry."

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