East Antrim Ulster Unionist Party Assemblyman Roy Beggs has taken part in an Assembly debate on un-adopted roads where he highlighted success stories in Carrickfergus & Larne, while outlining significant failings in the planning system at the Larne West Distributor, a major spine road.
Roy Beggs MLA, UUP Infrastructure Spokesperson said:
“I declare an interest as I live on an un-adopted shared laneway. I wish to make it clear that I have no expectation that the Department will re-tarmac the roadway to improve access to my property. That would be unrealistic. Similarly, we have to recognise that the Department faces the same financial pressures for all the hundreds of kilometres of private laneways in Northern Ireland. The Department is struggling to maintain our existing roads network. That is the reality of the current funding arrangement, and it is important that we do not create unrealistic expectations.
In preparing for the debate, I reviewed the then Regional Development Committee’s inquiry recommendations in 2012, and it was clear that many of the failings related to a lack of understanding from purchasers and, I dare say, solicitors around adequate road and sewer bonds to protect the purchaser should something go wrong.
I am pleased that, recently, in front of the Committee, a departmental official advised us:
“In trying to attract people to buy a property, it is in a developer’s interest to take out a bond because their solicitors will pick up at an early stage if it is not bonded. That has encouraged developers to take out bonds.”
As I indicated, however, if a solicitor fails to pick that up for some historical purchase, that represents a failure on the part of that solicitor to carry out due diligence. On a number of occasions, I have advised constituents to write to their solicitor seeking appropriate compensation. If they are unsuccessful, I have advised them to complain to the Law Society.
As was indicated, there are particular pressures on the Department to follow up on some historical failings, but it seems to be saying that things have got better. We were told, however, that there are approximately 20 members of staff for 3,470 live road bond applications, but the numbers inspecting and following up have been halved, in line with the change in the budget allocated to the Department. There is a real issue there. If we want to chase up some of the historical failings, investment has to go into trying to resolve the issue and drawing down the bonds, because it takes time to identify where the failings occurred.
I commend the officials who work with me in parts of Carrickfergus and at Lindara in Larne, where, on another occasion, a developer went bust. There were road and water bonds in place, however, so work was corrected and the roads finished.
I am aware of a significant failing in the planning system. I speak of the Larne West Distributor, a major spine road on which hundreds and hundreds of houses have been built. Somehow, however, a very small portion, perhaps 100 square metres, has been auctioned off. Despite millions of pounds being spent on building a spine road, there is a missing link. Somehow, instead of the owner of that piece of land having a liability, because the land is not linked to any of the other land that he once owned, it has become a ransom strip. We have a Mexican stand-off, and everyone in the area is suffering because of failures in the planning system and the Department to ensure that the development-led road was built. That is definitely a failing, and I ask the Minister how it will be addressed. Do we need a regeneration Bill to give authority to the local council to invest? It says that it can do nothing at present. I have lobbied the Minister. I have lobbied the former permanent secretary. Translink cannot lay on a public transport route to all those houses because of the missing section of spine road. That is a major failing in our planning system. It needs to be addressed. We need a solution. The public are suffering. We are encouraging the use of private cars rather than public transport. I urge the Minister to outline how we can resolve such a situation.”