St Patrick's Barracks Link Road, Ballymena

 

Status
Construction scheme (current)
Contractor  
FP McCann
Scheme
New single-carriageway link road connecting the A42 Broughshane Road to the A26 Larne Road, Ballymena.
Total Length
2.3 km / 1.4 miles (of which 1.4 km / 0.9 miles is entirely new road and the remainder is an upgrade of existing roads)
Dates

2007 - Ministry of Defence deem St Patrick's Barracks to be surplus

2011 - Land handed over to NI Executive
25 Nov 2016 - Draft St Patrick's Barracks Masterplan published
Oct 2017 - Demolition of existing barracks began

Late Feb 2020 - Site clearance work began at both ends of the scheme

29 Apr 2021 - scheme went out to tender (closing date 3 June)

27 Apr 2022 - tender for construction awarded to FP McCann

Late May 2022 - work began
Construction to take 12 months

Cost

5.8m (construction cost only) as of May 2022

See Also

Draft St Patrick's Barracks Masterplan - DFC

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

St Patrick's Barracks in Ballymena was originally occupied by the Army but has lain empty since 2011. The site contains a large area of land close to Ballymena town centre and its development has been the subject of a masterplan produced by the Department for Communities and Mid and East Antrim Council. The component of the plan that interests us is the proposed new link road that will traverse the site connecting the A26 Larne Road to the south with the A42 Broughshane Road to the north. The new road will be 2.3 km long, of which 0.9 km is a re-use of sections of existing road and 1.4 km of which is entirely new road. The map below shows the proposed route. The red line shows the entirely new part of the road while the yellow lines show existing roads that will be re-used. The green lines show other external road links that are planned for the site, but which technically aren't part of the St Patrick's Barracks Link Road.

Updates

9 Nov 2022: The project, in time terms, is now approaching the half way point with six months almost done another six months estimated to go. Fossie's Drone Adventures has just put up a new aerial video of the scheme, beginning at the north end, heading south and then returning north again. It was taken four days ago on 5 November. The main takeaways from this video are that the earthworks for the road itself are very well advanced, with long lengths of embankments looking completed, and that drainage works are well underway. There are trenches on each side of the future road into which plastic pipes are being laid. These will then be connected to drains along the sides of the road. The very start and very end of the video show where the road meets the existing Kernohan's Lane, and the right bend here is being smoothed out. The first photo below was taken by Ian Hunter (thanks again!) and shows this area from ground level. Site clearance works took place here in September and since then the earthworks have got underway. The second video shows some of the earthworks from ground level. All in all, the scheme seems to be going well and to schedule.


View from Kernohan's Lane at the north end of the scheme (roughly here) on 5 Nov 2022, showing earthworks getting underway the future realigned road which will smooth out the bend here. The height of the future road can be judged from the manhole cover in the foregound. The gravel likely marks the location of a drainage channel along the side of the road. [Ian Hunter]

Earthworks visible from behind Castle Tower School, near the south end of the scheme on 7 Nov 2022. Note the lamp post mast already in place, minus the light fitting itself. The road here runs a couple of metres above the school ground level. [Ian Hunter]

14 Oct 2022: Work is continuing to progress and the site seems fairly busy now, with works evident at almost all parts of the scheme. Firstly, there is an aerial video of the whole scheme taken by Fossie's Drone Adventures, taken in late September. The video starts near the north end of the scheme at Kernohan's Lane and continues south to near its southern terminus at the cinema. Work initially focused on culverts but in more recent months has focused on the heavier earthworks which are now largely complete. The land here is very soft, being the alluvial banks of the river Braid, which means that the road base requires geotextile mats to be laid at the base of the foundations. These are then covered with a layer of stone, a task which has now been completed on a little over 50% of the route. These mats stabilise the soil and prevent the road surface shifting and breaking up. See photo below. The contractor, FP McCann, recently posted some magnificent aerial photos of the scheme, as well as a 'newsletter' for people interested in the scheme. This month work will begin on linking the new road through the cinema grounds to Larne Road Link. Work has also been taking place over the past couple of weeks at the northern end of the scheme. The picture below shows some of the works from ground level. Completion is still estimated for May 2023.


Good shot of the various layers being involved in building the new road, seen here near Ballymena Showgrounds at the north end of the scheme on 30 September. The bare earth is first excavated, then two layers of geotextile are laid - a continuous white roll, followed by bands of the black material. This, in turn, is then capped with a layer of gravel to provide a stable base for the road. The road surface itself will then be constructed on top of this. The houses are on Fisherwick Crescent. [Ian Hunter]

22 Sep 2022: A couple more photos, taken once again by Ian Hunter - thank you! The first shows a shallow cutting being excavated for the new road as it passes Tower school. The second shows recent vegetation clearance at the north end of the scheme. Vegetation clearance work took place here in Feb 2020, just before Covid, and in that time it had re-grown to quite an extent, so the clearance had to be repeated. Work has now been underway on the scheme for four months. Estimated completion is May 2023.


Earthworks underway for a shallow cutting next to Tower school, 4 Sep 2022. [Ian Hunter]

The north end of the scheme on 21 Sep 2022 after the second set of vegetation clearance work. There is an existing road here but it is due to be rebuilt on a shallower curve through the area ahead - see map in the update for Feb 2020 below. [Ian Hunter]

24 Aug 2022: A brief update to link to another drone video of the scheme, posted by Fossie (thank you). The video shows progress over the past month, though work doesn't seem to be progressing at a huge pace. The video is focused on the central part of the scheme, near the Ecos Centre, and shows a section of earthworks with geotextile fabric placed on top of it. There is a series of black pipes along this embankment (see 2:00 in the video), which might be vertical drains, or might simply be markers. Elsewhere there are telltale signs that new culverts across the line of the road have been completed and buried (eg 3:55). A lot of work still to be done over the coming autumn and winter.

24 Jul 2022: Work is now well underway on this scheme. To date the focus has been on earthworks and culverts, and in particular a section of new road that connects the showgrounds to the Barracks site. This stretch will be particularly useful to the contractor moving heavy plant around the site. The ground-level photos below were taken by Ian Hunter (thank you) with two more posted on Twitter recently by the contractor, FP McCann. Finally, Fossie has posted drone footage of the scheme taken on 9 July here.


North end of the scheme near Kernohan's Lane on 7 July. The white fencing is typically used to protect watercourses from silt being washed off work sites. [Ian Hunter]

Geotextile being laid on the central section of the new road near the showgrounds on 7 July. Geotextile is used on soft ground to provide a firmer base for the road. [Ian Hunter]

Culvert works underway on the route of the new road on 23 July. These are used to carry watercourses under the new road. [Image by FP McCann]

Aerial footage of works underway on the scheme, including a former sports field, on 23 July. The geotextile pictured above was being laid in the area of road visible in the middle distance here, now buried under more earth. [FP McCann]

25 May 2022: In the previous update I said we may see movement on this scheme before mid June, and so it has proved with contractor FP McCann establishing a site yard at the site. They also ran a public information event today. There is a lot of work going on in the vicinity of the new road, but these appear to be for a separate project and are unrelated to the road scheme. Hopefully we will see some concrete work beginning shortly.


FP McCann site yard taking shape on 23 May 2022 [Anonymous contributor].

15 May 2022: After being out to tender for over a year, the construction contract was finally awarded on 22 April 2022, to FP McCann (congratulations to them) who were one of five tenders received. The total value of the contract is 5.8m, slightly less than the 6m estimated by DFI when it went out to tender. There is no sign of work commencing at the time of writing, but contractors to generally want to get started fairly soon after an award so we may well see some movement over the next month. FP McCann themselves posted an update about the scheme, which gives a good bit more information about the plan as well as a road layout plan. The total construction period is due to last twelve months. Although work has not yet begun, I am moving the project to "under construction" due to the tender award. According to site visitor Ian Hunter, some of the rubble from the demolition that took place during 2020 was used to create an embankment along part of the road which has been fitted with vertical drains. This is normally done where land is soft and the embankment fill needs time to settle, so this was likely planned well in advance to allow the road works to commence without delay. Tree clearance was also completed in 2020, so there are no issues with the bird nesting season.

5 May 2021: A major milestone last week - the scheme went out to tender on 29 April. Contractors do not have long to submit their responses, with a deadline of 3 June 2021. As expected, the construction period is expected to be 12 months. I would expect to see a contractor appointed by mid summer with work likely to get underway before the autumn. This timescale would see the road completed by autumn 2022.

22 Mar 2021: At long last we seem to be edging closer to construction. DFI's "future tenders" list is saying that the construction tender will be released during March 2021, or perhaps shortly after. The tender value is estimated to be 6m, at the higher end of the 4-6m cost estimated. Once awarded, construction would be expected to get underway fairly quickly. If the contract were to be awarded in summer 2021, then it could be complete and open by mid 2022. We shall wait and see.

27 Feb 2020: Planning permission was granted for the scheme back in March 2019, and site clearance works seem to have got underway in the past couple of weeks at both ends of the scheme. As this work involves tree-felling it is important that it takes place ahead of the bird nesting season. The photos below are all by Ian Hunter (thank you) who also alerted me to the fact that work is underway. I can't locate the tender for the scheme, but as it's being led by the Department for Communities rather than the Department for Infrastructure I may have just missed it. It's also not clear whether this site clearance is a separate contract, or whether work on the road itself will get underway shortly. Nevertheless, I have now marked this scheme as underway.


Pic 1: This is the loop at the very northern end of the scheme (here), on what is currently the access road to the Ecos Centre, on 25 Feb 2020. Trees and brush have been removed here because the curve is being reduced in severity by going offline slightly, as shown in the map below. [Ian Hunter]

Pic 2: Map of the proposed route of the new road at the very northern end. The picture above was taken from roughly the top left end of the red area. You can see how the intention is for the new road to take a less tortuous bend round this curve [DFC map].

Pic 3: At the southern end of the scheme, this is site clearance work underway in the grounds of Castle Tower School (here) on 25 Feb 2020, looking north. Its existing boundary is on the right, and the new boundary is the wooden fence being built on the left. This part of the road is a new-build, though it extends and upgrades the existing access road to the school behind the camera. [Ian Hunter]

Pic 4: Continuing forward into the view in pic 3, and then turning round to look back south again with the school behind the fence on the right. The building in the distance is the cinema. The works here unfortunately involve felling a number of mature trees (here), which has now been completed, while the woodland on the left remains intact. The new road will run along the line visible here. 25 Feb 2020. [Ian Hunter]

27 Dec 2018: The ISNI web site had indicated that this scheme would go out to tender in autumn 2018 but that did not happen, probably because of the interregnum at Stormont. The site has now been updated to state that the scheme will go out to tender in December 2019 with construction then due to take place between March 2020 and March 2021. It should be noted that this, too, is probably contingent on a return to Stormont so I would not regard it has a particularly meaningful timescale at this point. The scheme also seems to be broken down into two components - the "northern link road", connecting to the A42, and the "southern link road", connecting to the A26. It is possible therefore that the link road may be constructed in phases.