East Belfast park and ride plan would be disaster: councillors
There is anger over plans to build a huge park and ride facility near the Sydenham bypass, with former Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers saying it would be a disaster for traffic in Belfast.
Should permission be granted, a space with capacity for more than 500 vehicles will be cleared at Tillysburn, which would be bounded by the main A2 and the notoriously busy Holywood Road.
The developers behind the project believe a new park and ride in that area would provide improved public transport options for commuters when construction of the proposed York Street Interchange finally starts.
But Mr Rodgers and UUP deputy Lord Mayor Sonia Copeland say the park and ride will cause major snarl-ups and difficulties for commuters.
Both councillors said constituents were "enraged" by the proposal.
Their comments come just days after it was revealed that congestion on Northern Ireland roads cost the local economy more than £1bn last year. Their concerns echo the results of a recent survey in which Belfast was given the undesirable accolade of the UK's worst city for congestion, with drivers spending up to 200 hours a year stuck in jams.
Mr Rodgers told the Belfast Telegraph that he believed "this is completely the wrong place for a park and ride", adding that "contractors are already cutting down trees left, right and centre".
"Traffic in the area is bad enough at all times of the day without this," he said.
"If it goes ahead it will be a complete and utter traffic nightmare.
"Putting another 500-plus vehicles into that busy Sydenham bypass, Holywood Road area will be a complete headache.
"It's not acceptable. It's not a suitable location, we have absolutely no idea why it was chosen.
"My constituents and residents in the area are enraged by the proposal and I've already had numerous complaints.
"In fact, I don't know anyone who is in support of it. The Department for Infrastructure has gone ahead with this proposal without asking our views and it will cause nothing but hassle. It's like bus lanes."
He added: "There's something radically wrong with our traffic infrastructure - and things like this don't help."
Documents seen by this newspaper show the proposed development is a "park and ride facility incorporating approximately 520 spaces as part of advanced works to provide improved public transport options for commuters during the proposed York Street Interchange works".
The location stipulated is "lands at Tillysburn, bounded by the A2 Sydenham bypass and the Holywood Road, located to the north of Harland and Wolff Welders Football and Social Club, Belfast".
In a letter sent to councillors, the developers claimed the new facility will "assist in the alleviation of expected traffic congestion arising from the York Street Interchange upgrade".
Ms Copeland said she was concerned about the logistics of drivers "getting in and out to park" as well as the "level of traffic in that particular area".
"I believe it will cause congestion and I've been contacted by a number of people all of whom have been complaining about it, especially local residents," she added.
The Belfast Telegraph understands that a planning application has not yet been lodged with Belfast City Council.
AECOM Infrastructure and Environment UK Limited, which is employed by the department, is holding a one-day open house publication event at Tesco Extra Community Space, Knocknagoney Road, on March 12.
A Department for Infrastructure spokeswoman said: "Consideration of this park and ride location is at a very early stage. Development would require a planning application.
"The purpose of this consultation event is to gather comments from interested parties about the draft proposal."