Posted by: wesleyjohnston | October 17, 2012

Unbuilt Roads of Newtownabbey

Northern Ireland is full of half-finished road schemes, but metropolitan* Newtownabbey offers rich pickings for those keen to hunt down the tell-tale traces of abandoned road schemes.

Most people know metropolitan Newtownabbey as the suburban continuation of north Belfast, starting roughly from the M2/M5 junction at Greencastle and extending out to include Whiteabbey, Jordanstown, Rathcoole, Monkstown, Carnmoney, Mossley, Glengormley and Mallusk. As an urban area, it is quite new, having been transformed from fields and small villages to a large urban area really only from the 1950s onwards.

The majority of road schemes were first proposed during the fit of roads fervour that seized urban planners here in the 1960s. The Belfast Transportation Study of 1966 set out the plans for all-purpose road building (as opposed to motorways which were planned elsewhere) in the Belfast area. As it was, correctly, envisaged that Newtownabbey would grow rapidly as an urban area, a number of new roads were included in the area, some of which were built, and others were not. You can see the proposals traced out in red on this picture from the 1966 Belfast Transportation Study. I suggest you click this image to view it in a separate window, and then keep it open for reference.

Extract from 1966 Belfast Transportation Study

The motorways, in blue here, are just as interesting, but they are a story for another day. In this blog, I’m concentrating on the red and green suburban roads around the urban area.

As the urban area expanded with more and more housing, so space was left between them for this planned road infrastructure which, it was thought, would be needed to carry all the traffic they would eventually generate. Amongst those that were built are:

  • O’Neill Road (which already existed in 1966)
  • Prince Charles Way (labelled N15 on the map) which was built during the 1980s
  • Widening of Shore Road from the end of the M5 to Jordanstown (N2 and N3 on the map)
  • Upgrade of Station Road (N4 on map)
  • Fairview Road (N12 on map)
  • Church Road upgrade and Longlands Road (N14 on map)

However with the publication of the Belfast Urban Area Plan 2001 in 1989, the road proposals that had not yet been built were either formally abandoned or marked for “review” (which in practice meant the same thing). This has left lots of unfinished road schemes in Newtownabbey for the keen road enthusiast to spot! Below are just some of them. The numbers, eg N19, refer to the labels on the map above.

N19 Burnthill Road

Burnthill Road was designed to form a partial ring road round the centre of Glengormley connecting the Antrim Road to what is today Prince Charles Way via the Ballyclare Road and Carnmoney Road. Only two parts of Burnthill Road were ever built – the short stretch connecting Prince Charles Way to Carnmoney Road, and the western part of the stretch connecting Ballyclare Road to Carnmoney Road. The stretch from Carnmoney Road to Antrim Road, which runs past the former Northcott Shopping Centre, was opened in August 2003 in a slightly different form, but this was done by the private owner of the shopping centre and for different (ie commercial) reasons:

Northcott link road between Ballyclare Road and Antrim Road, Newtownabbey, under construction in April 2003. It opened the following August. (View west.) It was built close to the alignment originally reserved for an extension of Burnthill Road ©Wesley Johnston

By far the most obvious unbuilt part of Burnthill Road is shown below, where the recent housing developments are clearly designed with its construction in mind. This is one place that road enthusiasts can get out of their cars and walk along the route of an abandoned scheme. However with the presence of another road serving this purpose just to the north (Ferndale Road) it’s highly unlikely that this road will ever be completed.

N11 Ballyduff Road

There is a road called Ballyduff Road in Newtownabbey, but it’s not the grand one that was planned back in 1966, no sir. The proposed Ballyduff Road was designed to form the final quarter of an “inner ring” around Carnmoney Hill (along with Doagh Road, O’Neill Road and Prince Charles Way which do exist). Practically none of it was ever built, and unless you live beside it, you would be forgiven for never having seen any trace of it. However, the road has left gigantic footprints throughout the area. The map below shows the proposed route. Zoom in and look at the route in more detail, especially at the western end, and you will see what I mean.

There is even space for a roundabout to connect to the unfinished Beverley Road (see below). From the ground, several decades of vegetation growth mean it doesn’t look like much like a road corridor at all (this is the view from Fairhill Crescent). But for those willing to don a pair of good boots, there is lots to explore. Again, this road scheme has been abandoned so there is no chance of it happening in the near future.

N13 Beverley Road

Beverley Road is one of the more obvious unfinished roads. It was intended to provide a link from the Ballyduff Road (described above) over to the Manse Road. While the road sets out from a roundabout at Manse Road with good intentions, it gives up about half way so abruptly that the white line seems to just disappear into the grass without so much as a signpost. Pity anyone unfamiliar with the area driving up here in the dark!

The rest of the route is fairly obvious from the air. It was to have continued south-east until it met Ballyduff Road at a roundabout. The unbuilt stretch is highlighted below:

N1 Shore Road widening

The 1966 Belfast Transportation Study also contained a proposal to widen the Shore Road to four lanes between the Greencastle interchange (where the M2 and M5 diverge) and Hazelbank (where the M5 ends). This was achieved in two locations: at the Greencastle end, and a short stretch at the Longwood Road junction. Much of the rest of the road remains two lanes each way.

However, there are clues that something more is planned. For example, the fence boundaries here, at Martin Park clearly indicate that the area of land between it and the Shore Road are reserved for some reason, possibly for a possible future widening of the Shore Road:

And I also know that the owners of this row of houses have a long-standing notice that parts of their front garden could be vested at a future date for “road widening”. While I would not hold my breath for this scheme to happen any time soon, it’s marginally more likely than the ones outlined above since the Shore Road is a more important route.

N6 Manse Road widening

Manse Road runs north-east from the Ballyclare Road all the way to the Doagh Road. While it seems an innocuous enough road from ground level, there is plenty of evidence along here to show that much more was once planned. For example, check out the size of the reserved land corridor between Manse Road and the New Mossley estate to its north. You could fit an eight lane motorway down here, let alone the widened all-purpose road that was actually planned:

Further east more recent developments (ie, since the road proposal was abandoned) have encroached on this land, demonstrating that it is no longer a “live” plan. Nevertheless, there are little hints and clues here and there. For example, are the slightly odd fence lines at Ravensdale based on land ownership that had its origins in road widening plans?

N7 Glenville Road extension

Glenville Road today is a useful link that runs from the Shore Road in Whiteabbey, under the railway viaducts, to Monkstown Avenue. The railway viaducts were built before the widespread use of motor vehicles, and are too low for tall vehicles. However, back in 1966 there was a plan to extend Glenville Road all the way to the Monkstown Road by skirting round the back of what is now the Monkstown Industrial Estate. The map below shows the route that was proposed:

There are few clues in the landscape that this road was ever planned, since most of the route is still open fields. However the bizarre fence boundary shown below between two industrial properties is a dead giveaway. The industrial units on the right were clearly laid out with the road in mind, while the property on the left (Eglantine Timber) must have been built after the road plan was abandoned. The diagonal fence boundary marks what would have been the eastern side of the road.

N8 Croghfern Road

This road proposal relates directly to the previous Glenville Road extension. This scheme would have seen a new road link constructed between Glenville Road and Station Road, running beside the railway line. The proposed route is shown below:

At the south end the road would presumably just have incorporated Ypres Park. The link to Station Road would have been provided by bulldozing a gap in these trees. At the north end, there is clear evidence of the road plan in the form of a strip of land to the east of Glenabbey Crescent, which was only built 10-15 years ago.

Road spotters can get a good look at the road corridor from Glenville Road, as shown below. This land has been used for various purposes over the years, but the fact that it is distinct from the houses next door is strong evidence that it exists because of this road plan.

N15 Ballyclare Road (Manse Road to Corr’s Corner)

Prince Charles Way was built during the 1980s and runs all the way from O’Neill Road near Rathcoole, here, to a roundabout on the Manse Road here. This seems to function fine, so it’s unlikely that the road will ever be extended. However, in 1966 the plan was that Prince Charles Way would  run all the way to Corr’s Corner, basically by building a short stretch of new road to connect it to the Ballyclare Road, as shown below:

The only clue on the ground today is the large area of free land that has been left between the New Mossley estate and the Ballyclare Road, which is presumably free because of this road proposal.

N10 Lynda Road

I have left this one to last, because in fact there is absolutely no trace of it on the ground today. This proposal was designed to alleviate the narrow Jordanstown Road by providing a road link directly from the Shore Road via Circular Road to the Monkstown end of the Jordanstown Road. At this time it was not anticipated that the upgraded Shore Road would bypass the Shore Road/Circular Road junction, so this proposal made more sense than it appears to today.

Lynda Road was never built, and in fact the route set aside for it has now been completely obliterated by new housing development, so there is nothing to see today – except that the new houses have been named Lynda Farm, Gardens etc. The map below shows the route it would have taken:


The Newtownabbey area came into existence due to the post-war need to allocate large amounts of greenfield land for housing. The first major development was Rathcoole, during the 1950s, but massive suburban development around the whole area followed over the course of the next forty years. These road plans were put in place in 1966 to serve all these new developments.

Because the housing developments happened much more rapidly than the infrastructure, it reached the point in the late 1980s that most of the new houses were already in place, and yet the unfinished road system seemed to be performing quite adequately. This removed much of the rationale and impetus for progressing the unbuilt parts of the plan, and (quite correctly) led people to ask whether they were needed at all.

The 1990s and 2000s, ie after these schemes had all been abandoned, saw a change of thinking within the Northern Ireland government. No longer does the government provide roads purely to service new housing developments. Any roads of this type needed today are to be provided by private developers. It was by this method that, for example, the North Lisburn Feeder Road was provided in 2006.

Had this system been in place during the 1970s and 1980s, it is quite possible that the 1966 road plan would have been implemented in full. However, from where we are today, it seems very unlikely that any of these schemes will happen in the foreseeable future, and they will remain the playgrounds of local children.

*The term “metropolitan Newtownabbey” is used to refer just to the urban area that extends north Belfast, as opposed to Newtownabbey Borough which includes a large area of countryside, Ballyclare and other settlements.



  1. Best blog post yet. Cheers for taking the time to put it together

  2. Great post, but you’ve only half the story on N13 Beverley Road. Zoom out and you’ll see it was supposed to extend from Beverley all the way up to the Ashgrove roundabout on the Prince Charles Way.,-5.94444&spn=0.009688,0.01929&sll=52.8382,-2.327815&sspn=10.373909,19.753418&t=h&hnear=Newtownabbey,+United+Kingdom&z=16

    Not an option now as most of the land as been rezoned, and the narrow patch beside Greenacres is currently a building site.

    • No, that additional area of land to Ashgrove was part of the Ballyduff Road Proposal, not Beverley Road, which is discussed earlier in the same blog post.
      Interesting that they’re building on it. Final nail in the coffin!

      • Yea, sorry – I was always convinced it was part of one proposal. The Fairhill development would have put paid to it maybe 20/25 years age. The Greenacres site has gone through numerous stages of planning permission for the last ten years. Reduced down from roughly 50 houses on that site, to 20.

        On a side note, you can still see traces of the old Gelbe Rd running from Church Rd all the way to the Manse Rd. Elements of Carnmoney’s country roots!

  3. What an interesting post. I live on the western side of the N20 on the 1966 Belfast Transportation Study map. Have you any information on this road, specifically why it didn’t continue to link the Hightown Estate built in the late 80s to the Colinbridge estate built in the 70s? Incidentally both were linked temporarily in 2008 during the M2 Widening Scheme.

    • I have wondered why the road from the Collinbridge estate did not link through the more modern Hightown Park (etc) estate. Since the N20 plan was formally abandoned in 1989, it may well have stopped being an active proposal before that date. One reason I can think of is that a direct link would have offered a very convenient way to bypass the centre of Glengormley, and this would have attracted a lot of through traffic onto what is really a residential road, which would have been a better-understood phenomenon in the 1980s than it was in the late 1960s. By the late 1980s policy would likely have opposed through-links through housing estates.
      I remember well how the collapse of the embankment leading to Collin Bridge resulted in the hasty connection of the two estates in 2008, and how un-welcome this must have been for the people in the Hightown estate whose quiet cul-de-sac was suddenly the only access for several hundred people!

  4. Another point about the New Mossley estate is that it was originally intended to be much bigger than it turned out to be. Like Rathcoole it was hoped that the area would be one of Belfast’s only mixed council estates, though like almost everywhere else in the city it became occupied by a single community. Unfortunately it seems that the first phase of New Mossley should have been the second one, as it is cut off from the city by a field. Ballyearl Drive, where the single shop is, also looks like it should have linked up with Manse Terrace and on to Manse Road.

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