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Officials to face spotlight over ‘neglected’ Armagh and lack of link roads and railway

Armagh Portadown Rail Link

Officials from the Department of Infrastructure are to be put in the hot seat to address urgently the lack of link roads and rail link to Armagh and how the city is suffering as a result.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is to invite a departmental delegation along to its economic development and regeneration committee to give some answers.

It will do so after a briefing from Andrew Webb, of Webb Advisory, the Belfast-based economic research practice, who made a detailed presentation, covering everything from opportunities and weaknesses, to potential and promotion.

It was claimed the area was being “neglected” in terms of infrastructure.

During the course of the meeting, the recurring theme in relation to Armagh was the lack of infrastructure and the need for more industry.

And, to that end, Ulster Unionist Councillor Sam Nicholson, seconded by Councillor Mark Baxter, proposed asking DofI officials to meet with them.

It was pointed out that there was a need to look at the “infrastructure connectivity with Armagh City” – there were no dual carriageways, no rail link and no link roads, and heavy traffic and congestion on small inner city roads.

Also highlighted was the need to identify future industries that were “not reliant on connectivity”, and could “use the substantial skills base that existed in the Armagh area”.

Councillors, during the course of debate, raised the neet to continue lobbying for investment in infrastructure and transport links in Armagh.

Land availability across the ABC borough also needed looked at.

It was pointed out that in small towns within the country, businesses had been driven into the wider country to develop rather than in the small towns, because no preparation work had ever been done to identify sites for industrial development. Under legislation in the past, it was not possible to identify land for industrial development in villages, such as Richhill, the the consensus was that there needed to be some focus on such places.

The committee also heard claims that within the industrial development zones of identified sites, there had been “no strategic planning for improvement of those sites by the Department for Infrastructure in the last 30 years”.

It was stated that there must be a clear message about “joined-up Government” and that these sites were “brought up to the required standard”.

Mr Webb told the meeting that because there was so much economic activity in the area, it was essential that accessibility be improved for the future.

The meeting was told that despite the lack of infrastructure in Armagh, there were still a number of major businesses in the area, such as, Linwoods, Shillidays, Bunzl, HCL, and others, but Armagh had “been neglected in terms of infrastructure”.

Committee was told that a lot of the traffic in Armagh which was causing congestion was going through to other locations and not stopping.

There was an “urgent need for link roads and rail link”.

While the general perception was that the area is “out of the way”, it was revealed that the area has 10% of the Northern Ireland economy, something which was “not widely known”.

It was agreed to write to the Department for Infrastructure to invite officials along to discuss the issues raised.

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