Posted by: wesleyjohnston | December 1, 2012

The Story of Millennium Way, Lurgan

Millennium Way is a short but important road in Lurgan that turns ten years old this month (Happy Birthday!), having opened in December 2002. It had two purposes: (1) to open up the land south of the town centre to development and (2) to form part of an alternative route for through traffic that would ultimately reduce traffic on the busy Market / High Street. You can see it highlighted in the map below, running between Edward Street and Malcolm Road.

Does it surprise you that Millennium Way is actually the result of a decades-long saga? Or that it continues to be an ongoing saga? The name “Millennium Way” was obviously chosen to mark the time period during which it was built. Prior to this, the road does not have a particular name, so I will refer to it as Millennium Way below even though this is a modern name.

The earliest reference I can find to Millennium Way is in the plans for the Craigavon New City in the late 1960s. The map below is from the Second Report into the new city, dated March 1967. It clearly shows (in black) a road following the line of what is now Millennium Way.

Extract from a map from the Craigavon Development Commission, March 1967

Extract from a map from the Craigavon Development Commission, March 1967

Interestingly, this map shows a road that is more or less exactly what was opened in December 2002. However, by the 1970s the plan had been extended to include a 400 metre extension to the east to bring the road to the Gilford Road, Banbridge Road junction. This slightly more ambitious proposal is shown below.

This makes a whole lot more sense. After all, you’re not going to discourage cars from using the main street if it’s just going to dump them onto Malcolm Road, since they’d then have to drive up to the main street anyway to get anywhere useful. The extension to Gilford Road would make it a much more attractive alternative to the main street.

The next reference to Millennium Way dates from 1976 when a letter was written to a local MP confirming that the road would be going ahead. This information comes via MLA Stephen Moutray who read out an extract from the letter in the Assembly during a debate on 7 February 2012. The letter envisages construction in three phases from west to east, with completion by 1981:

The provisional five-year major works programme presently being considered by my Department incorporates the entire Lurgan through-pass [Millennium Way] from Edward Street to the Gilford Road. The programme’s start dates are: Edward Street to Union Street, 1978-79; Union Street to Malcolm Road, 1980-81; Malcolm Road to Gilford Road, 1980-81

None of this happened. It’s not clear why, but it was presumably due to budget constraints in those turbulent years. A further 26 years passed, with no work. However, work finally got underway in 2002 on the first two sections, Edward Street to Malcolm Road, and it opened in December 2002. The road quickly achieved its primary objective of opening up this land for development, with not only new retail developments (including a new Tesco store) but even new residential properties fronting the new road. Much inaccessible, derelict land has been given a new lease of life. It was the intention at the time that the road would be completed to Gilford Road in order to achieve its second objective, the discouragement of through traffic from using the main street. This image shows part of the road today:

However, a decade has now passed and still Millennium Way Phase 2 remains on the drawing board. Planning permission was sought by Roads Service in 2006 and granted. It was then renewed in January 2012. Yet, in his most recent statement on the matter (February 2012) the DRD Minister said that while he understood the importance of the scheme, there was no budget in the foreseeable future and that “unfortunately, difficult choices will have to be made over the next few years”. No official cost estimate has been given, but the remainder of the scheme has been unofficially estimated as lying between £5m and £8m. It is not an expensive scheme. Roads Service have simply said that “While this scheme (Millennium Way) is not included in the current budgetary period Roads Service has renewed the planning approval and is progressing the detail design of the scheme.

This has not stopped politicians and traders in Lurgan being amongst the most vocal I have seen in their continued lobbying for this scheme, most recently yesterday. Millennium Way Phase 1 is now a decade old – let’s hope Phase 2 exists by the time we are celebrating its 20th birthday!

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Responses

  1. I wonder how much of the proposed budget would go towards compulsory purchase orders/compensation for the two business premises which block the route of the Millennium Way extension? Continuing the road to the Gilford Road makes strong sense and allows complete avoidance of Lurgan town centre.

    Interesting to see the “inner ring road” plan from 1967; a lot of that corridor is still undeveloped, most notably the patch of wasteland from William Street to North Street, and I’ve heard people say that stretch still ought to become part of an extended Millennium Way to relieve A76/B12 bound traffic from using Church Place. That is, if a row of shops on Edward Street can be knocked through…

    When first looking at the map, I read the north-eastern part of the route as continuing down Wellington Street towards Windsor Avenue, but it seems that side of the ring is slightly nearer to the town centre – which is developed by business units on one side of Castle Lane, housing on Church Walk and the grounds of the police station.

    The new Tesco aside, perhaps the main thing Millennium Way led to was the final demolition of the old Pinehurst site; I moved to Lurgan in late ’89 and for over a decade, locals regarded it as the biggest eyesore in the town.


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