Plans for Northern Ireland's first motorway service stations cleared
Planning permission has been granted for the building of Northern Ireland's first motorway service stations.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood gave the go-ahead for two developments on the M2. Proposals for two more on the M1 could get the green light from Lisburn Council as soon as tonight.
For the first time, Northern Ireland commuters will not have to exit the motorway in search of their nearest service station.
The four proposed stations will include direct slip roads from the motorways in both directions, giving what the operators hope will be quick and easy access for drivers.
The M2 stations will be two miles west of the Sandyknowles roundabout in Ballycraigy, and the M1 stations are to be just south of Ballyskeagh Road, half-way between Belfast and Lisburn.
Mr Attwood said he considered the new stations a positive move for Northern Ireland.
"This will be good for travellers and good for jobs," he said.
"Their development will also provide a significant boost to the local economy, with a potential investment of some £20 million."
He praised the company planning to open the stations for having the confidence to invest in Northern Ireland at this time and provide much-needed jobs.
Mr Attwood also commended what he described as the speedy and responsive service of the planning system. The minister said planners processed the application long before the deadline date.
"These applications were turned around in just under 12 weeks, exceeding the Programme For Government commitment of six months," he said.
Petrogas submitted the proposals last October. The company operates all motorway service stations in the Republic of Ireland. Many can be seen on the route from Belfast to Dublin, under its Applegreen brand.
The construction will be done in phases, allowing the filling stations to open before the other facilities.
The development has already been recommended for approval by DOE Planning. Earlier this week, Newtownabbey Borough Council agreed with the approval for the two M2 service stations and Lisburn City Council is to meet tonight to consider the two M1 proposals.