Alex Easton MLA together with two local DUP Councillors for the Cotton area, Ald Bill Keery and Cllr Janice MacArthur have urged the Minister of Infrastructure Nicola Mallon to reduce the speed limit on the A48 Newtownards Road which runs through the Cotton.

Speaking to this paper Alex Easton MLA said, ‘I have lobbied the Department of Infrastructure for years to get something done about this road but the same reply has always come back, no to any calming measures. What is it going to take to get the Department to listen and make the required changes, a death on this stretch of road? Enough is enough, something has to be done to make the lives of the Cotton residents much safer.’

Over the past few months, all three politicians have been pounding the streets in this area listening to the views of residents and asking them to sign a petition to prompt the Minister to take action. ‘Everyone we spoke with has a story to recall of either an accident which had happened to them or an accident which they knew about,’ said Councillor MacArthur. ‘It was only when we started speaking with people on the doors that we understood the magnitude of the situation as ‘near miss experiences’ were recalled. Residents literally do take their lives in their hands exiting both their driveways and Bailie Road from a static position to a traffic flow of 60mph, the current speed limit which is just 10mph short of a motorway speed limit. This is not acceptable and I would challenge any departmental official to stand on that road and tell me that it is safe.’

Alderman Bill Keery further pointed out that the exit from Bailie Road was blind. ‘With the steady traffic flow on this road during the day and the blind exit from Bailie Road, many residents feel afraid trying to exit this junction. It’s impossible to have clear vision in both directions and if traffic calming measures were introduced, this at least would help to some degree. I would urge the Minister to take action now.’

In a written reply on 28 September 2020 to a question from Alex Easton MLA about traffic speed limits in villages, Nicola Mallon stated, ‘Unless signed otherwise and in general where street lighting is present, the speed limit will be 30mph, whereas if street lighting is not present the national speed limit will apply, which on single carriageway roads is 60mph for cars. Most villages will have street lighting and the speed limit will normally be 30mph. However, there are some exceptions and these will be signed appropriately.’ Whilst this might have been a suitable strategy in the past, given the increase in traffic on the Newtownards Road together with additional housing at Avonmore and the siting of a children’s play park just off the Newtownards Rd, this policy can no longer be deemed appropriate. ‘I would urge Transport NI to reconsider their position on this road and in the New Year make a reduced speed limit a reality, said Alex Easton. It would appear that despite the terrible accidents which have taken place on this road to date, most recently involving a young school girl, the Department has not acted. This cannot be allowed to continue, road safety is paramount and therefore I would urge prompt action to be taken. It is not acceptable or safe for traffic to drive through for example Millisle, Donaghadee or Groomsport at 60mph so why should this happen in the Cotton? The Department must show by their actions that they value the lives of not just the residents of the Cotton but also all road users too. Together with my colleagues, I look forward to affirmative action in the New Year as a response to our petition.

By Alex Easton

Alex Easton