Alliance Party representative and Assembly candidate Andrew Muir has met up with local campaigners keen to save Stonebridge in Conlig and again called for the Department for Infrastructure to halt plans to abandon Stonebridge, Conlig. The Alliance representative has stated that if the Department are unwilling to drop their Abandonment proposal a Public Inquiry must be held over the future of Stonebridge. The historic Belfast and County Down Railway Bridge that dates back to 1861.
For a number of months Mr Muir has been working with local residents to prevent the progression of a proposed Abandonment Order that has been made on The Green Road, Conlig by the Department for Infrastructure.
In February 2022, an online petition to the Minister for Infrastructure, calling on her to save Stonebridge from potential damage, received 546 signatures.
A number of formal objection letters were also lodged to the Department for Infrastructure against the proposed Abandonment Order. These objection letters will now be reviewed to decide if the Abandonment proposal should be progressed to the next stage and whether or not there is a need for a public inquiry. Mr Muir has called on the Department to call a Public Inquiry if they decide to proceed with their Abandonment Order.
Local resident and campaigner Louis O’Keeffe commented, ‘This bridge is part of our heritage and is a powerful link to the history of the area therefore it is essential to protect this landmark from the risk of demolition. We have seen a great response to our online petition and a number of formal objection letters have also been lodged with the Department for Infrastructure. It is vital that the Department engages with local residents to find another solution to the future of Stonebridge.'
‘From my research it appears that there are extremely limited mechanisms in place to protect Stonebridge if the proposed Abandonment Order goes ahead. The Council’s Local Development Plan is seemingly our only hope if the Abandonment Order is made, however this is many years away from completion,’ said Mr Muir.
‘I am still waiting on a response from the Minister for Communities who has responsibility for our Built and Industrial Heritage but investigations to date have revealed the bridge cannot be listed or any other similar protection afforded. We cannot be expected to take our chances with an Abandonment Order.
‘I urge the Department to abandon this proposed Abandonment Order and engage with Council over what protections can be granted via the Local Development Plan before this is ever re-considered. Failing that a Public Inquiry must be held to ensure full and proper examination of the issues ensuring local voices are heard. This is an important piece of our local rail heritage and action taken by local residents has demonstrated the desire to keep Stonebridge standing.’