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Bridge monies remain unpaid

 
FOUR years after Strabane’s pedestrian bridge first opened to the public, this newspaper can reveal that it has not yet been paid for.

The Department for Communities confirmed that a final payment remains due because of “outstanding information” that was only recently provided by Derry City and Strabane District Council. They did not divulge what this information was.

Off limits to the public since the end of October for resurfacing works that were supposed to take a week to complete – weather permitting – the bridge has increasingly become the focus of local ire. 

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Each week since Halloween, Derry City and Strabane District Council has claimed that would “reopen again next week.” However, it is understood that one top council official this week claimed that it could be closed for the foreseeable future.
With this and with DfC confirming that not all monies have been paid to council, uncertainty around the bridge has intensified.

A DfC spokesperson said, “The Department can confirm that there is a final payment outstanding to Derry City and Strabane District Council with regard to the Strabane pedestrian and cycle bridge. 

“This is due to outstanding information previously requested by the Department being received in November 2019. 

“The Department is currently assessing this information to enable the final payment to be made as soon as possible.”

A spokesperson for council said ‘a range of final works that are necessary for the facility to be adopted by the relevant Government department,” are continuing, hence the ongoing closure. But local councillors aren’t convinced.

Strabane independent councillors, Paul Gallagher and Raymond Barr have both said enhanced clarity is required.

“Are there issues going on between the council and the contractor which is holding the public to ransom, where they can’t use the bridge?” Cllr Gallagher asked.

“There needs to be questions asked and I’ll be doing that at the next full meeting of council. Because when it comes to uncertainty people tend to come up with their own assumptions. We need to be informed. Who owns the bridge? It is council? Why hasn’t the money been drawn down completely? Is there a time limit on this?

“The public has been using this walkway for four years. The usage shows that it was needed. Now that facility has been withdrawn and the public wants to know why.

“There’s more going on here than meets the eye. I guarantee it, if it was the Peace bridge in Derry this would have been sorted.”

This week council declined to say how much money had yet to be drawn down from DfC or why there has been such a delay. Nor would they say if there will be extra cost to the ratepayers for the resurfacing.

“It’s a ridiculous situation,” Cllr Raymond Barr stated. “I’ve been getting a lot of complaints about the bridge being closed. I contacted the department and was told it hadn’t yet been adopted because the surface didn’t come up to the standard required.

“I was also told by an official at council that it is unlikely to be opened in the near future.

“I don’t think that council appreciated how much people used the bridge. People’s patience is wearing thin.”
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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 4 Castle Street, Strabane, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland, BT82 8AB