Derry city retailers warn new dualling scheme could put 300 jobs at risk

A Department for Infrastructure visual showing how the new Buncrana Road scheme would look country bound.
A Department for Infrastructure visual showing how the new Buncrana Road scheme would look country bound.

UP to 300 retail jobs could be at risk in Derry city if a new road development goes ahead in its current form, business groups have warned.

Traders on the Buncrana Road have expressed fears that the Department for Infrastructure’s current upgrade plans will impede customers accessing local businesses.

The £70m proposal, which dates back to 2005, involves dualling 4.4km of road from the Pennyburn Roadabout to the Donegal Border.

Trade body Retail NI said a number of its proposed changes to the scheme had been rejected by DfI officials.

Local trader David Barber said: “We have submitted sensible and practical changes to the proposed redevelopment plan to facilitate our customers and passing trade being able to access the shops on Buncrana Road. Sadly, all were rejected by the Department for Infrastructure.

“If customers can’t gain easy access to our stores, then we will lose this trade which will sadly result in store closures, up to 300 job losses and a net loss of £2million to the local economy.”

Traders have urged Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon to intervene.

The Minister announced her intention to progress the scheme in June.

Retail NI’s chief executive, Glyn Roberts said: “With the huge hit to the economy with Covid-19, every job is vital, and we urge the Minister to listen to our concerns and make the necessary changes to this plan and protect these livelihoods and small businesses.

“Retail NI supports the overall plan to upgrade the Buncrana Road as it is a vital investment in the infrastructure of Derry, the north west and the Derry-Strabane City Deal. However, no business should have to close, nor jobs lost as a result of this redevelopment.”

President of Derry Chamber, Redmond McFadden has also expressed concern: “It is crucial that this issue is resolved and the threat to these businesses lifted.

“The prospect of the loss of so many jobs and businesses in our city has to avoided at all costs and we hope that the Minister will act accordingly.”

In a statement, Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said: “In June, I announced my commitment to fund the continued development of a number of strategic road Improvement schemes including the A2 Buncrana Road, as part of my plan to aid economic recovery and community transformation while addressing regional imbalance.

"I am keen to ensure these schemes progress and that they will deliver multiple benefits for communities across Northern Ireland. Consistent with my wider priorities, I am committed to ensuring that they are future-proofed and help stimulate our green recovery.

“My department is continuing to progress the A2 Buncrana Road scheme in line with my objectives which include improving transport links, road safety, and traffic progression and contributing to the regeneration of the area whilst maintaining the environment and achieving value for money.

“In March, just before lockdown, I met with local business owners on this road as I was keen to hear their views and concerns. I have asked my officials to continue discussions with all stakeholders over the coming months, before I decide on the next steps.”