CLICK HERE TO SEE Roads Service one-sided consultation MS/4839 To; Dr A McC Murray Chief Executive
Transportni Headquarters, Clarence Court, 10-18 Adelaide street, Belfast , 20 May 2013, BT2 8GB
Dear Dr Murray,
I refer to your letter dated 3 May 2013 in response to Down District Council’s letter to Permanent Secretary regarding transport matters in Down District. Your response was circulated to Councillors for their information.
Council is giving consideration to the overall content of your letter along with a similar response from the Minister’s private Office however to draw a number of important matters to your attention.
In your response you state local officials gave very serious attention to a proposed one-way system for Edward Street in Downpatrick. As you are aware Council objected strongly to the way in which the consultation on this scheme was organised in 2011. In particular officials were selective in compiling and assessing available evidence on supporters and objectors to the proposal.
A weighted question was posed to residents which only invited comments from those opposed to the introduction of the one-way system. This ignored the many residents, public representatives and road users likely to benefit from the proposal. That consultation is now being characterised retrospectively and disingenuously as an informal consultation.
I am unsure how this is meant to differ from a formal consultation except in that it fails to meet the standard of consultation normally required for such a significant proposal. Are officials empowered to substitute an informal arrangement for a formal consultation process? If this is the case, which policy document contains this discretion?
Council would have concerns if TransportNI are seeking to rely on an inadequate consultation process given the impact on efforts to alleviate traffic congestion in Downpatrick town centre. I am also considering, in my private capacity raising this matter with Northern Ireland Ombudsman as an example of maladministration.
I must ask you therefore to properly investigate this matter. There was a clear and serious procedural failure in not conducting a proper and balanced consultation exercise on the proposal to introduce a one-way system in Edward Street Downpatrick. During the trial of the hugely successful trial of the one way system, I was one of 7 Councillors present at a meeting with the Roads Service in Down Council were we were told that no petitions or letters of support would be necessary given how overwhelmingly successful the one way system had been.
We voiced our concerns at the meeting, pointing out that sending a stamped addressed envelope seeking only negative responses to every house in the area was bound to elicit a few responses. Councillors pointed out how the local population, the local councillors, the MLAs and the MP we all delighted how the trial of the one way system had worked out.
We asked for the trial one-way system to be retained on a permanent basis, but Roads Service management insisted that the law required them to return to a two way system before running a consultation.
We queried this as a bit of a waste of money, but were told that was the law. We were told that we should not be concerned as the success of the one way system would make any consultation a formality.
I attach a copy of the consultation for your attention.
Should you fail to investigate this matter and uncover the fact that the consultation fell short of what is expected in the public service, I will have to take this matter forward to the Onbudsman under the heading of maladministration.
Cllr Cadogan Enright