Neolithic remains delay bypass


THE CONSTRUCTION of a major dual-carriageway to bypass Ballymena, Co Antrim, is being delayed after the discovery of neolithic remains at the site.

Archaeologists have uncovered a rare late-neolithic ring fort, one of just four such forts found in Ireland.

Initial excavations took place over an eight-week period between June 2009 to September 2009, and a team of 20 archaeologists have recovered objects, including flint chippings, small blades and a leaf-shaped arrowhead.

The site was not detected in the pre-construction Environmental Impact Assessment, and discovery has caused months of delay and added significant cost to the project.

Many of the areas of archaeological interest or “hotspots” found by Archaeological Development Services during the topsoil stripping near Ballymena were isolated pits which contained burnt bone and neolithic pottery.

This meant that excavation of the cutting and construction of embankments elsewhere could not start on schedule, and the work was further delayed by wet weather in November.

A Department of Regional Development spokeswoman said: “The lengthy period of poor weather had halted excavation of the remainder of the cutting, and thus halted completion of the embankments being constructed elsewhere.”

The Department of Regional Development said it hoped the remainder of the road construction would be completed at a fast pace following completion of the cutting and construction of embankments.

Campaigners opposed to the Slane bypass in Co Meath said the discovery of the neolithic remains outside Ballymena highlighted the dangers of pressing ahead with the N2 Slane bypass.

Vincent Salafia of Save Newgrange said: “A late discovery on the N2, such as this previously undetected site at Ballymena, could lead to long delays and additional costs, and even result in a rerouting of the bypass.”