Downpatrick Eastern Bypass
(or Downpatrick Link Road)


Construction scheme (proposed)
To build a new bypass around the east of Downpatrick from the A25 Strangford Road to the B1 Ardglass Road.
Total Length
3.7 km / 2.3 miles

Initial scheme appraisal carried our by DRD - Aug 2005
Included in Sub-Regional Transport Plan (SRTP) - June 2007

Included in Ards and Down Area Plan - March 2009
TransportNI initiate new feasibility study - Aug 2016
Feasibility study recomments not proceeding with the scheme - Mar 2018

18.3m - as of 2017

Anyone familiar with Downpatrick will be familiar with the congestion in the town centre as so many of the local roads converge at Irish Street, Church Street and Market Street. This road proposal would see a new road built around the east of the town, not forming a full "bypass" of the town, but allowing traffic to at least bypass the town centre by linking together several radial routes.

Confusingly, the 2009 Ards and Down Area Plan uses the alternative name "Downpatrick Link Road" for this scheme, while the 2010 Downpatrick Town Centre Masterplan has adopted the term "Eastern Peripheral Route".

The proposal is divided into four elements, shown on a map below this description:

  • Strangford Road to Saul Road (1.4 km), which will be built by upgrading a small stretch of Rathkeltair Road and then following a new route to Saul Road, meeting it just east of Ardfern Road. Provision of this part of the Bypass has been linked to the development of about 11 hectares of land zoned for housing at Ardenlee Gardens, as you can see in the relevant section of the 2009 Ards and Down Area Plan (see proposals DK 08 and DK 17). The route of this part of the Bypass is, therefore, relatively well known, but provision will be dependent on the private developers of the housing area. It is shown in blue on the map below.
  • Saul Road to Ballyhornan Road (1.5 km), which will be built on a new route through the countryside. The 2009 Ards and Down Area Plan links the development of about 52 hectares of housing land in this area to the provision of this part of the road, which is likely to require a developer contribution (see proposals DK 07, DK 12 and DK 13). The route of this part of the road is very uncertain, and has yet to be pinned down precisely. It is shown in red on the map below.
  • Ballyhornan Road to Struell Wells Road (0.3 km), which will also be built on a new route through the countryside and is dependent on two housing developments mentioned in the previous section (proposals DK 12 and DK 13). Like the previous section, the route of this part of the road is very uncertain, and has yet to be pinned down precisely. It is shown in green on the map below.
  • Struell Wells Road to Ardglass Road (0.5 km). Although the 2007 Sub-Regional Transport Plan suggested an entirely new road to connect Struell Wells Road to Ardglass Road through the countryside, the 2009 Ards and Down Area Plan instead recommends the upgrade of an existing stretch of Struell Wells Road to meet the existing roundabout on Ardglass Road (see proposal DK 13). The development of a housing site of about 6 hectares at Struell Wells Road has been made dependent on this work being completed, and hence the developer may be asked to contribute to it. This would complete the Eastern Bypass. It is shown in orange on the map below.

View Downpatrick Eastern Bypass / Link Road in a larger map

(Alternatively, you can see the road proposal marked as a dotted line in Map No. 3/002a in the 2009 Ards and Down Area Plan.)

The 2009 Ards and Down Area Plan stresses that "The road lines ... between Saul Road and Struell Wells Road are indicative only. Concept Master Plans and indicative concept plans, which will accompany applications for development of these lands, will be required to include the proposed line of the relevant development road." One such master plan was the Downpatrick Town Centre Masterplan, published in draft form in 2010, and which included a transport report. The report used the same basic route as was included in the Ards and Down Area Plan, but recommended three changes:
  • that the Eastern Bypass be linked to the A7 north of Downpatrick by upgrading the existing Finnebrogue and Cotterhill Roads (visible by scrolling the above map northwards and zooming in).
  • that a supplementary link road be built connecting Quoile Road to Strangford Road (see page 163 of the transport report).
  • that the Eastern Bypass be supplemented to the south of the town centre by another new link road connecting Killough Road to Ballydugan Road, relatively close to the town centre, so that traffic on the Eastern Bypass could travel along Ardlgass Road into the town before using the link to get to the A25 Ballydugan Road. The location of such a link was not set out in the plan.
These suggestions have not been taken any further by Roads Service at the time of writing (2013).


13 Feb 2022: Going through the web site recently I realised that I neglected to update this page with the results of the feasibility study that I referred to in the 2017 update below! The feasibility study was published in March 2018 and was not supportive of the proposed scheme. The analysts calculating the benefit/cost ratio (BCR) for the scheme. Basically, this is the estimated financial benefit from the scheme for the sixty years from 2030 divided by the construction cost. Anything below 1 indicates a scheme that would cost more than the benefits it would bring. The BCR for the Downpatrick Eastern Bypass is 0.3, indicating that it would be poor value for money. The BCR was then re-calculated assuming an addition of 1630 new homes in the area by 2030. In this case the BCR was 0.913 which was closer to 1, though still not good value. The report concluded that "there is no economic justification for proceeding with the Eastern Distributor Road". However, I don't think this is the end of the matter as this argument only applies if it was public money being spent on the road. The scheme is set to cost around 18.3 and be just under 4km long, making it not dissimilar to the 11m / 3 km Ballyclare Western Relief Road which is currently under construction and is being privately funded as a condition of planning for nearby housing. There would be a strong case for making provision of all or part of the Downpatrick Eastern Distributor a condition of planning for housing developments in the east/south Downpatrick area. In this case, the justification for the provision of the road would not be the economic benefit, but rather to offset the additional traffic that the new developments would add to the existing road network. This is quite justifiable and something that the local council ought to consider, especially as new local area plans are currently being drafted.

30 Nov 2017: In the last update I reported that the former DFI Minister initiated a new feasibility study into this proposal. The October report to Newry, Mourne and Down District Council indicates that "Work on the feasibility study is now substantially complete. It is anticipated that the feasibility study report will be finalised over the coming weeks." If it has been completed, it hasn't been made public so we can't say anything more about its contents. I would speculate that it basically says "yes, this scheme would bring benefits, especially if the town grows". However my intuition is telling me that this project is not a priority within DFI when compared to all the competing proposals, so short of some private developer funding it as part of a major housing development, I'd be very surprised if we see much more movement on this proposal in the next few years.

8 Oct 2016: This is one of those road schemes that has languished on the "would be nice" pile for years and years. But lo and behold, the Minister actually mentioned it in a press release during August. While he was in Downpatrick to talk about a possible one-way system for the town, he also said this: "Many local residents and businesses have long called for an Eastern Bypass or Distributor Road to be given serious consideration as a means to alleviating congestion throughout Downpatrick and also as a vital piece of infrastructure to allow the local economy to flourish. I have taken the decision to initiate a feasibility study of the scheme which will assist my department in discussions with key stakeholders on the possibility of providing this road in the future." Now, it has to be pointed out that Roads Service already carried out a feasibility study into this road in 2005, and much of the detail listed above was as a result of this. However to be fair to the Minister ten years is a long time in road building terms and it is probably no harm to go back to reconsider the options after this length of time. But having said that, it's hard to see this particular scheme managing to fight its way to the top of the funding priority queue even in the next ten years when it would be competing with schemes such as the A5, A6 and York Street Interchange, and the Ballynahinch and Enniskillen bypasses which seem likely to use up most of TransportNI's capital funds for some years to come.

16 July 2013: Two weeks ago, the DRD Minister was asked about progress on this scheme via a Written Answer (AQW 24167/11-15). His answer does not offer much hope of imminent provision of the Eastern Bypass, but does at least confirm that it is still considered to be a live proposal by Roads Service. He said "In the longer term, there is also an Eastern By-pass proposal identified in the Ards and Down Area Plan. The Plan envisages this bypass will be provided through developer contributions".