Alliance’s Strangford MLA Kellie Armstrong has called on the Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard to respect the wishes of the Assembly and develop a costed strategic plan for road maintenance.
Ms Armstrong was speaking after an Assembly debate on road maintenance. Kellie Armstrong said: “This Assembly debate shows the level of concern amongst elected representatives about the state of our entire road network. I am pleased that members supported my amendment to the original motion, that instead of simply ring fencing money for road maintenance, the Minister and his Department needs to develop and publish a costed strategic plan for road maintenance and repair. That plan should be included as part of the Department for Infrastructure’s ongoing work programme from 2017/18 to the end of the mandate.
“In a perfect world we would have enough money to start to reduce the estimated £1 billion backlog that has built up over the years. The results of that backlog can be seen in every part of Northern Ireland through the number of potholes that are continually patched. More worryingly is the fact that last year alone, almost 2000 claims for damage to cars led to a payout of £210,000.
“Of course I accept we are not in a perfect world and there is not a limitless pot of money for roads. That is why I believe that we need to rebalance the amount of capital expenditure being used for new road builds, with a new priority on structural maintenance. I welcome the building of new roads, when we have the money for them.
“Investing in structural road maintenance in a planned way will reduce the need for reactive maintenance and deliver much needed support for the contracting industry, thus supporting jobs.
“If we are serious about presenting Northern Ireland as a place to do business in, then we need to ensure our roads network is up to the task. The best way to do this is through better strategic planning and less dependence on in year monitoring rounds to plug the funding gaps.
“I would urge Minister Hazzard to begin work right away on a strategic plan for roads to ensure he presents a strategic budget to the Executive in time for 2017/18.”