Dundonald Eastern Link Road (Quarry Corner Link)

 

Status
Construction scheme (proposed)
Where
To provide a single-carriageway link between A22 Comber Road and A20 Newtownards Road round the eastern side of Dundonald.
Total Length

2.0 km / 1.2 miles of new road

Dates

1969 - Scheme proposed in Belfast Transportation Plan to provide a link from the A20 to the M7 motorway
1990 - Scheme included in the Belfast Urban Area Plan 2000.
2006 - Scheme included in the draft Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan 2000.
Jun 2019 - Public event to consult on proposal to construct housing on part of the route of this road.

Cost

£unknown - to be funded by private developers

See Also

General area map - Google Maps


Click here to jump straight down to updates for this scheme.

This scheme has been in planning now for half a century, having been first proposed in the 1969 Belfast Transportation Plan. That was the plan that proposed a major system of motorways extending out from the Belfast Urban Motorway in the centre of the city. One of these, the M7, would have run along the route of what is today the Comber Greenway to Dundonald (formerly a railway line). The motorway would have travelled over the A22 Comber Road on a bridge to a huge interchange just south of Ballybeen. This is shown in the map below. There was an eventual aspiration to extend the M7 to Newtownwards, but this was regarded as being on the long finger even at the time. As a result, a link road was proposed to connect it to the A20 Newtownards Road. This is shown on the map below labelled E14 (meaning the 14th road proposal in the "E"ast of the city).

Map of M7 junction with A21 Dundonald

Of course, the M7 never happened as it was scrapped along with the rest of the motorway programme when Direct Rule was imposed in 1972. The scheme did not die however. A review of transportation was undertaken in 1987 and it proposed a cut-down all-purpose A-class road for the route of the abandoned M7. This would have followed the route of the M7 as far as the A22 Comber Road in Dundonald, and thereafter followed the route of the E14 to the A20 Upper Newtownards Road. It was known at the time as the "Comber Route". This is shown in the map below, taken from the 1990 "Belfast Urban Area Plan 2000". Note that the number "E14" has persevered. Note also how much development has occurred in the interim, including construction of the entire Ballybeen Estate. The connection to the A20 is at Quarry Corner, so called because there used to be a quarry at a 90° curve in the road, which was obliterated when the dual-carriagway was built in 1980. At the south end, a realignment of the Comber Road was proposed with a new roundabout on the banks of the River Enler.

Dundonald Eastern Link Road in 1990

Still nothing happened, however. The "Comber Route" was never built, with attention instead focusing on upgrading the M1/Westlink corridor and building the M3 Lagan Bridge. Transport thinking continued to evolve. The draft "Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan 2015", published in 2006, suggested a rapid transit system for the city. This was to run along the line of the "Comber Route" but be limited to buses rather than general traffic. Since it would terminate at the Comber Road it was recognised that traffic from Newtownards would need a way to reach it. Thus proposal E14 got a third lease of life as it was included in the "Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan 2015" as shown below. The new proposal abandoned the idea of realigning the A22, and instead proposed a short link between the two. The plan also allocated a massive tranche of land for housing (shown in brown) and the plan thus established a "road protection corridor" to keep it free of development. This corridor is already plainly visible in aerial views of the Old Mill, Cooper's Mill and Millmount developments. The route changed slightly to flow directly onto what is today the Comber Greenway, presumably the idea being that it would form a continuous route that rapid transit vehicles could continue onto. It was also stated in the plan that the road would NOT be funded by Roads Service but by the developers of the brown-coloured land. It said "The Quarry Corner to Comber Road non-strategic road scheme provides access from the A22 Comber Road to the A20 Upper Newtownards Road transport corridor and the EWAY Rapid Transit Scheme – now proposed to be road-based. Developers will be responsible for funding the MCH 14/02 either in full or in a substantial part." The number of the road proposal has changed to "MCH 14" meaning "Metropolitan Castlereagh, but the number 14 lives on.



Twelve years have now passed (as of 2018) since this incarnation was proposed and rapid transit is now largely complete, except that the route is actually on the A20 Upper Newtownards Road. The "Comber Route" is now a walking/cycling path called the Comber Greenway and is not now going to become a route for buses. That leaves the Quarry Corner Link a little up in the air. However, with such huge development in Dundonald the pressure on the village centre is immense, and this scheme would definitely serve a growing need to take traffic out of the centre of Dundonald. The little link road at the bottom of the above map HAS actually been built, but the rest of the road is unbuilt. Despite it being stated in the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan that the scheme would be funded by developers, as far as I can tell NONE of the planning permissions for the huge housing areas have actually included provision of all or part of the road as a condition. If that continues then the housing will eventually be completed with a big, grass line through the middle and no road.

The map below shows the current situation with the now-abandoned EWay rapid transit route shown in orange, and the remaining Quarry Corner Link plan shown red. The layour of the houses in the area still seems to be being designed with the ORIGINAL EWay plan in mind, which to me no longer makes sense as it's no longer necessary to curve the road west to meet Old Dundonald Road. I would suggest that constructing the link road along the dotted line to join the existing stub link road would make much more sense. Such an option is, however, rapidly disappearing as the Millmount development progresses.

Quarry Corner Link Road route
                              Dundonald

Recommendations


I would therefore urge DFI Roads and Lisburn and Castlereagh Council to do three things:
  • Be aware of the content of the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan and its committment that this road should be funded by developers of the nearby lands, and not to miss this opportunity to provide much-needed infrastructure.
  • Re-visit the land protection corridor at the A22 end with a view to a more direct tie-in to the A22 in order to prevent development jeopardising this more sensible alignment. This would also reduce the overall cost of the scheme.
  • Make provision of components of the road a condition of planning for future sections of housing alongside it.

Updates

26 Jun 2019: A housing developer, Fraser Homes, held a public consultation event last week in Dundonald Library. They are proposing to construct houses on the northern section of the corridor reserved for the Quarry Corner Link. The area in question is shown below, which is taken from information given out at the public event. It is currently a proposal, and they have not yet formally approached the Department for Infrastructure. Obviously, such work would prevent construction of the Quarry Corner Link and by necessity lead to its abandonment, so it is a decision that needs to be taken at a strategic level.

At the public event, Fraser Homes made a number of points in support of their proposal to build homes on the route of the road:

  • The Quarry Corner Link, as it was originally proposed in the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan, was intended to connect the Upper Newtownards Road to a Park and Ride on the Comber Road to serve the proposed Rapid Transit scheme which at that time was to have used the route of the Comber Greenway. But, in fact, the park and ride was built at Dunlady Road, rendering the proposed road redundant.
  • Transport consultants employed by Fraser have concluded that the road would have little strategic value and would serve no public transport function.
  • There will soon (within the next few years) be a direct route between Comber Road and the Upper Newtownards using the partially-completed spine road that traverses the Old Mill and Millmount developments, which will allow through traffic movements and bus routes. The consultant at the public event felt that this was appropriate for the spine road.
  • There is an option of routing a cycling route along the road corridor. Graphics displayed at the event suggest that this would take the form of a cycle lane alongside the roads that serve the new housing, rather than a stand-alone cycle route like the Comber Greenway.

These points have some merit. In particular, the Quarry Corner Link would indeed result in a second road being built adjacent to what will soon be a viable through route through Old Mill and Millmount. However, there are some additional points that need to be made:

  • The Quarry Corner Link was originally proposed in the 1969 Belfast Transportation Plan, not 2004 as stated. It has been a purely road proposal for most of its existence. The Belfast Metropolitian Area Plan added a public transport dimension by suggesting that it could also carry rapid transit. However, BMAP is clear that the proposal is BOTH a road proposal AND a public transport proposal ("The Quarry Corner to Comber Road non-strategic road scheme provides access from the A22 Comber Road to the A20 Upper Newtownards Road transport corridor and the EWAY Rapid Transit Scheme", emphasis mine). It therefore does not follow that the decision to route Glider along the Upper Newtownards Road renders the Quarry Corner Link proposal redundant.
  • Both the A20 and A22 are strategic roads, and much of the traffic moving between them is also strategic in nature. Due to the significantly over-loaded road network in Dundonald, much of this traffic is displaced to three routes – the Ballybeen Estate, Greengraves Road and Ballyrainey Road. None of these routes are appropriate for strategic traffic. The BMAP calls the Quarry Corner Link a "non-strategic" road scheme, which simply means that the completed road would not form part of the strategic road network. However, the Quarry Corner Link would still serve a strategic purpose in carrying much of the traffic between the A20 and A22.
  • It is questionable whether a strategy that actively encourages longer-distance traffic to drive through a housing development is sensible, especially given that in some places there are houses that directly front the spine road, and given that land has been reserved for the past fifty years to provide such a road.
  • BMAP stated that the Quarry Corner Link would be funded by the developers of the nearby lands. It says "developers will be responsible for funding the [Quarry Corner Link] either in full or in a substantial part". To the best of my knowledge, none of the developers of these housing lands have ever had provision of this road made a condition of planning. That is a matter for the planning authorities but it strikes me as a failing of the planning process over the past 15 years.
  • Building on a road protection corridor effectively removes any possibility of building such a road for generations to come. In other areas we have built over transport corridors, and later come to regret it (eg the canals, railways and other unbuilt roads).

In any case, this is currently merely a proposal. The developer is currently gauging public opinion and has yet to formally approach DFI with the proposal. DFI will have their own views of the merit of the idea, as will road users and residents of the Dundonald area. At the public event visitors were encouraged to email any feedback they have to eway@gravisplanning.com .

Map showing the area of the road corridor that the developer wishes to build homes on, as of June 2019 [Fraser Homes].