A major Northern Ireland road has been labelled a “rubbish disgrace” and statutory bodies slated for not keeping it clean.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council have admitted responsibility for clearing litter from a large section of the Newry A1 Bypass around 13 years after it was opened.
The Beech Hill to Cloughogue dual carriageway phase of the road was completed in 2010 at a cost of over £150m, with tens of thousands of motorists using it every day since.
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The final section of the road was hailed as making the island of Ireland more accessible than it had ever been before. It passes through the Ring of Gullion Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
But a Newry businessman has voiced his frustration at the amount of litter left on the road and an apparent inability to take responsibility for keeping it tidy.
The businessman, who wishes to remains anonymous, said: “The rubbish problem along the A1 dual carriageway has been there from the very first day the road opened and nobody up until now has held their hands up to take responsibility for it.
“I have been contacting various bodies for years, including the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) and Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) on what can only be said is a disgraceful eyesore and environmental issue.
“I was put through a response system of jigs and reels as no one would take the blame. I travel regularly in to the South to Co Louth and further and you can see straight away that the authorities there have a priority when it comes to cleaning of litter and maintenance of roadside grass and bushes.
“Honestly, I travelled from Louth to Cork and there is less rubbish the whole way there than there is from Carrickdale to Cloughgogue roundabout (approx 3 miles ), never mind from Newry to Banbridge.
“The damage that has been done to the local environment and natural wildlife will probably never been known. It’s an absolute massive rubbish disgrace, it has never been touched.
“The council is spending £17m on a new refuse fleet, I just hope that they have a new vehicle to regularly clean up the A1 rubbish.
“This is not a quick fix job, it not only needs to be cleaned up consistently, but there needs to be a whole new re-education of drivers and passengers on throwing litter out of their car windows. They throw out whatever they like without a thought and they’re gone.
“It’s our community and our environment that is being drastically affected and no one has cared or done anything about it for years.”
The Local Democracy Service made a number of enquries regarding who is responsible for the highway’s cleanliness.
In February last year (2022), the former DfI minister Nichola Mallon stated: “My department is responsible for the cleaning and maintenance of slip roads and road side on the A1.
“I can confirm that the carriageway is swept four times per year and any general detritus is removed and spillages on the carriageway, that may cause a hazard, treated when identified. The local council is responsible for the removal of litter.”
An initial response from NMDDC demonstrated the confusion over the responsibility for the litter on the A1.
A council spokesperson said: “DfI is responsible for the cleansing of the main A1 carriageway. Newry, Mourne and Down District Council is responsible for cleansing the slip roads off and on to the A1 within the district boundary. These are on a monthly cleansing schedule which is kept up to date.”
However, the Local Democracy Service presented photographic evidence of the roadside rubbish, which prompted a fresh statement.
A NMDDC spokesperson said: “Newry, Mourne and Down District Council has sought clarification and can confirm it is responsible for clearing litter off the A1 bypass as seen in the attached photo.
“NMDDC has responsibility for clearing litter from the areas of the A1. NMDDC will liaise with DfI to set up impact protection vehicles to ensure the safety of its staff while cleansing the road verges of this high speed dual carriageway.”
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