Lorries to be banned from Northern Ireland village
Heavy lorries face being banned from entering one of Northern Ireland's most picturesque villages following complaints from residents.
It comes on the back of a long-running campaign by people in Hillsborough to get noisy trucks barred.
The matter was discussed at a meeting of the Assembly's regional development committee this week, where officials confirmed that weight restrictions on vehicles entering the village could come into effect within the next year.
There are now calls to widen the ban to other towns and villages across Northern Ireland.
Situated close to Lisburn, the village centre contains significant amounts of Georgian architecture, as well as the Queen's official residence in Northern Ireland, Hillsborough Castle.
However, residents claim its streets often shudder to the sound of heavy goods vehicles taking a short-cut through the village.
Officials now hope to introduce a maximum weight limit on vehicles travelling within the conservation area in the centre of Hillsborough.
It will be the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.
The Department for Regional Development said the proposal was at an early stage and would be subject to the legislative process, which will include consultation and an opportunity for people to comment on it.
Jimmy Spratt, who chairs Stormont's Regional Development scrutiny committee, said he was delighted the department is finally acting on the issue.
"I am aware that there has been a long campaign to remove HGV traffic from the historic Georgian village of Hillsborough," he said.
"I would hope that the department would also look at other villages and towns, such as Clady and Dungiven, to stop lorries using these routes unnecessarily and encroaching on the health and safety of residents."
Ukip MLA David McNarry, who also sits on the committee, welcomed the scheme.
"Our small towns and villages were not built to cope with large vehicles," he said. "There are growing worries over pollution and vibration causing damage to properties.
"Road surfaces are chewed up and pot-holes created, not only is maintenance costly, the unrepaired areas are dangerous."
Mr McNarry said other places should follow suit.
"Other towns such as Saintfield and Comber and villages in the Ards Peninsula should seize the opportunity to get the same deal as Hillsborough," he added.
"Comber has been waiting over 50 years for the second stage of its bypass system.
"Saintfield is a peak-time traffic nightmare. Both find serious difficulties in coping with juggernaut vehicles."
However, Martin Reid from the Road Haulage Association expressed concern at the move.
"We have sympathy with the homeowners and residents, but at the end of the day there is a commercial contract that HGV drivers have undertaken," he said.
"Lorry drivers are contracted to take something from point A to point B. If they are being signposted a particular way there is little they can do about it."
"I believe we need urgent lateral thinking on preserving our villages and keeping goods flowing. This entails looking at the cost of effective bypass systems, minimal disruption to the haulers and a win-win result of traffic congestion easement."
David McNarry MLA