A2 Sydenham Bypass - new grade-separated junction at Connsbank

 

Status
Construction scheme (proposed)
Where
To construct a new grade-separated junction on the A2 Sydenham Bypass to improve access to Titanic Quarter via Connsbank Road.
Total Length
n/a
Dates

2005 - Proposed in Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan

Planning application submitted - Oct 2009
Planning permission refused on a technicality - Apr 2012
DRD confirm that scheme is still a condition of planning Titanic Quarter - Mar 2015

To be built "before" Sydenham Bypass widening scheme

Cost
Unknown - see "funding" below
Photos
See below
See Also

General area map - Google Maps

Existing A2 Sydenham Bypass - on this site

A2 Sydenham Bypass widening - on this site

Connsbank Link Road - on this site

Map of land reserved for the scheme - see p25 of this 6MB PDF file.

The Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan 2025 (BMTP), published in 2005, recognises that the development of the Titanic Quarter area of the docks will require a second access point. Currently, the access point at Queen's Quay / M3 offslip is the main entry point. In addition, the existing traffic-light controlled junction on the Sydenham Bypass at Dee Street creates a bottleneck for traffic travelling east from the M3 motorway.

This privately-funded plan will see the Dee Street junction closed, and replaced by a new junction at the Connswater River bridge about 700 metres further east. The Connsbank Road (currently closed to traffic) would be re-opened to connect the junction north to Airport Road. All vehiclar access to and from Victoria Park will be via this new road, although the existing "car and pedestrian" subway will be retained.

The location of the new junction, and the existing Dee Street junction, are indicated on this screenshot from Google Earth (Titanic Quarter is the huge area around Queen's Road). The thin white link heading north west from the site of the proposed GSJ is Connsbank Road which would be re-opened as part of the scheme.

In February 2010, a preliminary design of the proposed junction was released to the public, as part of the wider A2 Sydenham Bypass widening scheme. This design is shown below. It shows that this will be a "compact" grade-separated junction characterised by looped sliproads connected with roundabouts, and relatively short merges with the Sydenham Bypass. The planning application (ref: Z/2009/1266) was submitted in October 2009, and Roads Service have stated that the scheme is likely to proceed before the Sydenham Bypass widening scheme proceeds.

Design of the junction as of February 2010. [Roads Service map]

Updates

11 Mar 2015: Some clarity has emerged thanks to a Question for Written Answer in the Assembly in early February. When directly asked about this scheme, the DRD Minister confirmed that "the provision of the Connsbank junction is a planning condition of the overall Titanic Quarter Phase 2 development lands" and clarified that "The trigger for the provision of the junction is based on the opening of the Titanic Belfast (Visitor Centre) and one-fifth of other Phase 2 development as defined in vehicular trips within an approved Transport Master Plan". This latter point clarifies the position I alluded to in the previous update. However, the Minister went on to explain that "given the economic downturn, Titanic Belfast is the only development currently implemented within these lands and a time-frame for the construction of the new Connsbank junction is therefore uncertain". So the translation is this - the junction has to be provided once Titanic Quarter reaches a certain level of development, but the economic downturn means the required level of development is not going to happen for quite some time yet, thus the junction is not going to be built in the foreseeable future.

27 Apr 2014: In the previous update about two years ago (see below) I noted that Titanic Quarter Limited were attempting to change the trigger point for provision of this junction so that it did NOT need to provided before the Titanic Visitor Centre opened, as had originally been the case. They made a case based around things like the fact that visitors to the Centre were unlikely to be arriving or departing all at once, and were unlikely to be traveling during the rush hour. This case seems to have been convincing since the Planning Service granted permission for their request back in March 2012. The permission has not removed the requirement for this junction, merely how developed Titanic Quarter has to be before its provision is "triggered". I must confess to being stumped by the wording of the document (see summary version here) so I can't speculate as to when this might be. Suffice to say, nothing has happened in the past two years and I have not seen any new planning applications for construction of the junction being submitted since the previous one was refused on a technicality in April 2012.

21 July 2012: According to the minutes of a Roads Service Board meeting back in March (but just published) Roads Service are content with Titanic Quarter Limited's attempt to change the trigger point for provision of this junction (see previous update). It is not clear whether the Planning Service has made a formal decision yet. However, the fact that no work is taking place despite the recent completion of the Titanic Signature Project implies that either way a delay will be the outcome. Of more significance is the fact that the planning application to build the junction, submitted nearly three years ago, was refused in April 2012. The DOE wrote to the applicant on 24th April stating that permission was being refused on the grounds of a procedural technicality. The letter (see here under 'Associated Documents') says: "On 10 June 2010 the Department requested Further Environmental Information ... the information must be submitted within three months from the date of the request or such extended period as may be agreed in writing between the applicant and the Department. ... No information or further request for an extension of time has been received by the Department. Your application is therefore deemed refused." Although it's not clear why it took two years to lead to a refusal when the deadline was only 3 months, this may well suit the revised timescale suggested by the attempt to change the trigger point. The bottom line is that we should not hold our breath for seeing work begin any time soon.

8 Oct 2011: The minutes of a meeting held almost exactly a year ago (which I have just found) sheds some light on this scheme. It says "Colin Sykes (CS) reported the provision of Connsbank junction is a planning condition of the overall Phase 2 development however an Article 28 application to remove the opening of the TSP as a trigger for the junction was received in May 2010. Roads Service has provided a response and has requested that further information be provided in order to assess the transport issues involved." This appears to mean that Titanic Quarter Limited had originally agreed to build this junction as soon as the Titanic Signature Project (TSP) was completed. The TSP is currently nearing completion. The "Article 28 application" appears to be an attempt by Titanic Quarter Limited to remove this requirement. Although Roads Service say that they have replied, their actual response is not recorded so we don't know if they agree or disagree. Presumably the TSP-based trigger was set up in order to provide better access once traffic levels reached a certain point - and it could be that traffic levels in Titanic Quarter are not expected to be as high as anticipated when the trigger was agreed. The minutes of a DRD board meeting held on 8 August 2011 are very vague, but suggest that the issue around the timing of this junction is still ongoing. There is no sign of any work on the ground.

1 March 2010: As part of wider documentation, published in late Feb 2010, detailing the preferred option for upgrading the Sydenham Bypass new information on this scheme has been released. This includes the design of the document (shown above) as well as the information that the planning application for the junction was submitted in October 2009 and is currently being considered. Roads Service have indicated that the scheme is likely to proceed before the upgrade of the Sydenham Bypass. The latter scheme is due sometime between 2014 and 2018, so this scheme may well proceed in the next few years. The fact that it is being funded by the developers of Titanic Quarter, means that there may be a more immediate motivation to have it built.

25 Apr 2008: Roads Service kindly responded to my request for an update on the scheme. They confirmed that the scheme is being privately funded and that the timescale therefore depends on developments in Titanic Quarter. However, they are apparently also working to try to ensure that the scheme proceeds at the same time as the Sydenham Bypass widening scheme (see link above) to minimise disruption. The widening scheme is due to take place sometime in the period 2013-2018 which may help date this proposal as well.

Funding

This scheme is to be privately funded. The Belfast Metropolitan Transport Plan states that "The timing and the provision of all access improvements to the Harbour Estate (Titanic Quarter), as well as other improvements to infrastructure, public transport and transport initiatives, as part of the phased development of the area, will be clearly identified and agreed with the Department. The funding for all these improvements will be the responsibility of developers either in full or in a very substantial part.". This was confirmed by Roads Service by e-mail in April 2008.

Photos

The Dee Street bridge over the A2 Sydenham Bypass seen looking west in late 2006. The road goes over the bridge to the right, then curves round 180 to join the A2 at traffic lights just beyond the bridge. This junction will be closed as part of the scheme. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]

Site of the new junction. This view looking north west along the disused Connsbank Road is taken from the Sydenham Bypass (which runs left to right behind the camera). This road would be re-opened to provide access from the new junction to the Titanic Quarter ahead. Picture taken in late 2006. The Connswater River runs to the right of the road. [Photo by Wesley Johnston]