PLANS for Bangor’s last massive housing development need to be heavily reduced, not just tinkered with.
That’s according to a North Down MLA after property developers slightly reworked exit lanes on the planned Bell’s Hill scheme, but still want to build more than 150 houses on congested Gransha Road.
To be constructed on farmland next to Bloomfield shopping centre, the development has picked up around 100 objections from concerned locals since plans were first filed two years ago.
Originally meant to be 183 homes consisting of a mixture of apartments, townhouses, and both detached and semi-detached units, in 2022 developers downsized their plans to a total of 157 homes.
But they got into a dispute with roads bosses over traffic safety, revolving around a new junction on Gransha Road that would act as the development’s main entrance and exit.
Authorities advised the developers that they’d need to build slip lanes and traffic lights around the junction, as well as restricting all vehicles exiting Bell’s Hill to left turns only.
The developers disagreed, maintaining that a two-way exit would work; they’ve recently submitted redesigned plans for the junction, which include dedicated right and left exit lanes plus turning bays, but there’s no sign of the traffic lights.
For North Down MLA Andrew Muir, those changes don’t go far enough.
He argues that placing the junction of such a large development close to an already busy roundabout will make existing serious congestion problems and traffic dangers in the area worse.
And the only solution, he believes, is to massively scale back the development itself.
“The number of units and general layout of the development remain unchanged in these amended plans,” he says.
“The main difference is that there are separate right and left exit lanes from the site, instead of a single lane. This one change will not go far enough to address problems [with the scheme].
“The additional cars from 157 new homes will bring traffic around the Gransha roundabout to a standstill at rush hour, and create disastrous hazards from vehicles turning in and out of the development.”
A main access route leading between heavily built-up suburban areas and the ring road dual carriageway – which in turn leads to the city centre, as well as Bangor’s largest shopping centre and routes to Belfast – Gransha Road is also home to an extremely popular school and is regularly gridlocked with traffic.
Figures show that between the start of 2018 and the time the Bell’s Hill planning application was first filed in 2021, there were 19 car crashes along the road, with a total of 29 people hurt or affected by the accidents.
For Mr Muir, that’s proof that work already needs to be done to make Gransha safer for motorists and pedestrians alike, even before the new development is factored in.
“These plans have been back and forth for the last few years and residents are rightly concerned about the impact such a large development will have on the surrounding area,” said the Alliance MLA.
“Tackling the existing risk should be the priority, not piling massive additional strain onto the flow of traffic.
“I will continue to oppose these plans unless we see considerable changes and real solutions proposed around road safety.”
The Bell’s Hill site is the last large patch of undeveloped green land available within Bangor’s current city limits, making it the final big suburban housing project on the cards for the foreseeable future.