Belfast Telegraph

Outrage at road workers filming families trying to reach homes

By Linda Stewart

Angry residents of Gilnahirk have demanded to know why they are being filmed by road workers as they try to reach their homes.

Residents face a four-mile detour as they try to reach their homes along the top section of the Gilnahirk Road which has been closed in one direction due to resurfacing work.

The road is only open to motorists travelling towards Belfast.

Some residents say they received no notice about the work which started earlier this week; others insist they were promised 'local access' and that is not what they are getting.

Road users, including customers of a veterinary clinic, were furious when they were issued with £60 fines and penalty points for trying to reach their destination by driving the wrong way up the open lane.

Mother-of-four Michelle da Silva - who originally told of her frustration on BBC's Nolan Show - said she was fined as she attempted to reach her home at Kilmakee Park after picking up her three children. "One of the workmen videoed myself and the three children in the car. I pulled into Geary Road and he said he was just doing his job," she said.

"I am not comfortable with my children being videoed. I'm told that DRD are passing these videos on to the police.

"My day is chaotic enough with having four kids. This is extra petrol costs and it's time I don't have either.

Pet shop owner Martin Halliday says the number of customers through his door has dropped by around 12% since the work started. "We have a lot of people coming down from Comber and Ballygowan and they would stop in at Hillmount before coming to us. We've noticed a significant drop in the past two or three days," he said.

The Department for Regional Development said the £184,000 project would improve the footway and carriageway surface, and the one-way road closure would be removed at weekends.

Gilnahirk Road will be closed for four days at Easter but vehicular and pedestrian access will be maintained for residents. It said consultations were carried out with local schools, churches and businesses, and that there was a letter drop to residents.

"It is normal practice to take details of vehicles that drive through road closures and then pass this information to the PSNI," a spokesman said.

He added:"TransportNI is not aware that any laws are being broken when details of vehicles that drive through road closures are passed to the PSNI."

 

We were told there would be local access, not there would be a huge diversion

It's a leafy suburb on the outskirts of east Belfast.

But this week residents of Gilnahirk have been subjected to gridlock and frustration - and it's set to continue until after Easter.

Every time people from the residential area above the mini-roundabout leave their homes, they are forced to run a four-mile gauntlet of winding country roads as they attempt to get back to base.

Even worse, when you reach the top of the Middle Braniel Road, there are no diversion signs at all, leaving strangers to the area confused and frustrated.

Meanwhile, some working parents are having to pay childminders for an extra hour's care every day as the traffic chaos adds an extra half-hour to their commute.

One of the hardest hit is Gortlands Veterinary Clinic where a number of customers have been landed with £60 fines and penalty points for driving several hundred yards against the one-way route to reach the business.

One customer said she was reduced to tears as she attempted to transfer her seriously ill dog from an emergency veterinary hospital in east Belfast to her own vet at Gortlands, and became completely lost in the process.

Catherine told the Belfast Telegraph that she was trying to bring her mini-schnauzer Macy to the clinic when she became lost on the diversion route and ended up at Roselawn.

"I had to retrace my steps, go back down to Braniel Road and park in a local church, because there were no parking spaces at school time," she said.

"I had a very ill dog who was passing blood at the time.

"The wee dog was traumatised the whole time. I had to get her to walk on her lead and she was really weak and passing blood all the time. It was extremely stressful.

"It took a good five minutes, if not more, and I was physically crying. I'm not a person that would normally be reduced to tears.

"I found it unbelievable that there was no other route to get here."

Macy is now on an drip at the clinic and is being treated for haemorrhaging gastroenteritis.

Practice manager Michael Browne said a number of clients were fined for driving the wrong way up the road to get to the clinic.

"It seems a bit harsh - you have a sick animal in your car and you have to drive 7km to get here or the 200 yards," he said.

"We appreciate that the work has to be done but I would have thought they could have had a traffic light system."

Mr Browne said the road closure has had a knock-on effect on the business, but when they made a number of suggestions to the site manager, they were all vetoed.

"We were told that there would be local access, but they didn't say there would be a huge diversion from the roundabout to get here," he added.

"It's very frustrating looking out there and not seeing much happening. The main issue is that they closed off the whole road when they shouldn't need to.

"Our clients are getting very frustrated."

Local man Mike Yarr echoed the comments: "The whole place is closed off and there is no one working on it. They could do the works in a quarter of the time if they had themselves organised."

But one workman told the Belfast Telegraph that people travelling the wrong way up the one-way route were endangering the lives of road workers if they have to swerve into their safety zone.

"I couldn't believe the amount of people coming the wrong way up the road," he said.

"People don't understand that if they do that and have an accident, they have no insurance."

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