RESIDENTS around Legacurry received the news they had been dreading this week when it was confirmed that repair work which needs to be carried out to Legacurry Bridge will not be completed before August at the earliest.
The historic bridge is in a serious state of disrepair, with parts of the structure and road crumbling away, leaving local people facing detours of up to four miles on local journeys. Roads Service engineers have now confirmed that the entire bridge will need to be rebuilt due to the instability of the foundations, which have been undermined by the river.
A major repair operation must now be carried out, with the total cost expected to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The foundations of the bridge will have to be completely replaced, with engineers having to divert the river whilst they carry out the work.
Local Councillors Jonathan Craig and Edwin Poots have been lobbying Roads Service to make sure work is underway as soon as possible and Mr Craig met with engineers on Wednesday.
Mr Craig commented: "It was not good news. Because of the instability of the bridge they are going to have to replace the foundations. This is a major job, which will break the repair budget for the year.
"The worst news is that it is going to be August before it is completed,' he added.
"It is an unfortunate situation that is down to 20 or 30 years of neglect." Councillor Craig has urged the Department to ensure the public are fully informed of the detours they face due to the closure of the Upper Ballynahinch Road at its junction with Crossan Road, cutting off the main route from Lisburn into Annahilt, Dromara and Ballynahinch.
Mr Craig added: "People are driving down there and being diverted and not knowing where to go. There is a four mile diversion in Annahilt, but people are thinking it is just a few hundred yards. I have asked for new signs explaining where the diversion is leading to.
"It is extremely unfortunate, we are piling the pressure on Roads Service but because of the engineering challenges it will be no sooner than the start of August."
Local resident Rodney Magown has appealed to the Ulster Farmers' Union (UFU) to apply pressure on the Roads Service, as he fears there could be a serious accident on the country roads people are being diverted to.
Mr Magowan commented: "The general public, including UFU members and their families, face detours and the dangers of heavy traffic on minor roads such as the New Road, Cabra Road, Comber Road and Bailliesmills Road.
As well as the inconvenience, this is putting more and more heavy traffic on byroads. We are now starting to see these roads give way under the heavy traffic and as silage season starts there will be tractors and trailers travelling at high speeds along small roads where mum's are doing to school run and people are commuting to work."
A DRD Spokesperson said: "Reconstruction work should commence on site within the next two weeks and should take approximately 12 weeks to complete, however the repairs will require some work to be carried from within the river. The timescale will therefore depend on the level of water within the river and a period of unseasonably wet weather could potentially delay the completion of the repairs.
"Roads Service appreciates the disruption that the ongoing road closure is causing and would like to assure the public that every effort is being made to have the road reopened as soon as possible."