Newry and Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA and his councillor colleague Gareth Wilson have met with DAERA Minister Michelle McIlveen MLA and Forest Service chief executive Malcolm Beatty, to discuss the ongoing concerns on parking on the hard shoulder at the main entrance to the forest.
Mr Irwin said the meeting was very useful and he was encouraged by the personal interest Minister McIlveen had taken in the matter.
Mr Irwin has brought the issue of parking and the safety risks to my attention and I felt it was important to see the issue for myself. It certainly has been an essential visit as it is clear that the parking culture around the entrance is a safety concern.Michelle McIlveen, DAERA Minister
Minister McIlveen commented: “Mr Irwin has brought the issue of parking and the safety risks to my attention and I felt it was important to see the issue for myself. It certainly has been an essential visit as it is clear that the parking culture around the entrance is a safety concern.”
The minister added: “I will be looking closely at this matter to assess the options for improving the forest park entrance. This initial process will include liaising with the Department for Infrastructure, given their responsibility for the road network and I understand a speed limit review is underway which encompasses the park entrance. All these various aspects will form part of my discussions into mitigating the risks at this location.”
Mr Irwin said: “I was grateful to the minister for taking time out to come down to Markethill and survey this matter for herself. There has been a great deal of concern locally on this matter and the risk to motorists and park users is considerable as a result of the parking culture which has developed on the hard shoulder.”
He stated: “This will require a multi-agency approach to resolve and I am aware that the Infrastructure Department is currently assessing the speed limit across this busy series of junctions and Minister McIlveen is keen to assess what additional measures could be developed in tandem with other departments that would make the main entrance to the park safer for everyone.”
Councillor Wilson stated: “This was a good opportunity for the minister to see exactly the difficulties that exist at the park entrance. The council locally has a growing interest in Gosford as a recreational facility and discussions are ongoing in terms of the future development of the site.
“The issue of safety, not just for park users but also for passing motorists, is obviously a big concern and I know following this meeting that the minister shares our concerns.”
Mr Irwin concluded: “Both Councillor Wilson and I will continue to work on this matter and keep in close contact with the DAERA Minister and her officials, including Mr Beatty of Forest Service, to move this matter forward and hopefully reach a conclusion that addresses the very real concerns of local people.”