I have condemned the recent decision of a Council Committee to invite consideration of Donaghadee as the landing site for a bridge joining Northern Ireland to Scotland as a “potential environmental and social disaster for Donaghadee and our Borough.”
At the recent meeting of the Council’s Regeneration and Development Committee, DUP and Ulster Unionist Councillors voted en bloc to have the Chief Executive write to the Scottish Government and Northern Ireland Secretary of State requesting that the ‘east coast of the Borough be considered in any study as a possible connection point for a new bridge linking Northern Ireland with Scotland.’
I am extremely “disappointed” at the short-sighted view of many in the Council chamber – including Councillor Mark Brooks who proposed the bridge land at Donaghadee – and I’m not prepared to play fast and loose with the future of Donaghadee and the surrounding shoreline and countryside.
In addition, the monumental amount of money required to build a bridge of this magnitude would be a poor use of funding when compared to the many other more beneficial infrastructure projects that are currently awaiting investment opportunities.
Our coastline is regularly lauded as one of our greatest assets, yet this proposal invites government to visit an environmental disaster on our shore as we intimate that we are prepared to hand over great swathes of it to the incredible infrastructure this bridge would require.
Other toll bridges require infrastructure that include a 10 lane wide toll plaza and support buildings, along with a vast area of hardstanding for stacking lorries and cars during periods of closure due to high winds or accidents, and that this could be the same in Donaghadee.
Providing the land for this infrastructure alone would decimate Donaghadee and our coastline – and that’s before we even consider the building of the motorway required to serve the bridge.
We can’t simply bring the bridge to the shoreline and then allow the thousands of lorries and cars that will cross every day to trundle up New Street and find its own way out of town. Instead we would be required to dig up countless acres of our beautiful countryside to drive a motorway through. It’s absurd.
This misguided decision of the Committee is already having an immediate effect on Donaghadee, and one that I will continue to fight. I have had lengthy conversation with local people, including one local estate agent who is hopping mad about this decision.
He recognises that should potential house buyers and investors think that any property they consider buying in the area could come with a motorway rather than a sea view, property prices in the town and surrounding area could plummet.
And it’s not as if this environmental and social damage can even guarantee an economic dividend for either Donaghadee or our Borough. The vast majority of the traffic using this bridge would be commercial and far from stopping to enjoy a coffee or a beer, would simply thunder through the town on its way to destinations around Ireland leaving a cloud of pollution in its wake.
It’s clear some Councillors haven’t grasped the seriousness of the decisions we make, opting to court easy headlines rather than standing up and protecting our local area. If we continue down this road and raise concerns about the environmental destruction of the coastline around Donaghadee – not to mention the reputational damage to the town itself – this Council and the Councillors who vote to support this idea could be accused of wanton professional negligence.
I’m not prepared to allow Donaghadee and our stunning coastline to be sacrificed for some cheap headlines, and I would encourage you to contact your Councillors to demand that they reverse their decision and step back from the brink of this potential disaster before it is too late.