Northern Ireland

Hydebank MOT centre granted planning permission

Mechanic working on engine Image copyright Getty Images

Planning permission has been granted for the construction of a new MOT centre at Hydebank, in south Belfast.

The Department for Infrastructure (DfI) said the new centre will process 90,000 additional tests per year in the Greater Belfast area.

Northern Ireland motorists have been facing weeks of delays arranging a vehicle test.

But a department spokesperson told BBC News NI that waiting times have been reduced in recent months.

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Work on the new MOT centre is expected to begin next year, with a planned completion date by 2022.

There was unanimous agreement at Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council to approve the £16 million facility, which will employ 175 people.

In July, it emerged the DfI was creating tens of thousands of additional appointments to tackle a backlog.

That included tests taking place on a Sunday and an additional 1,000 extra tests per day added in September.

Image caption MOT tests in Northern Ireland are carried out in government-run tests centres

Some drivers have been unable to secure an appointment until after their MOTs have expired.

A Department spokesperson told BBC News NI it has managed to reduce waiting times.

"DVA is currently testing over 20,000 vehicles per week. In recent months, the appointment of additional staff, together with Sunday and Bank Holiday openings, have helped manage the increase in applications for tests and reduce waiting times.

"As the demand for vehicle tests continues to grow, the Agency will consider whether any further measures to increase capacity should be introduced. We would continue to encourage customers to book their MOT online as soon as they receive the reminder notice."

Councillor Jonathan Craig, chairman of the planning committee, welcomed the recommendation.

"The test centre at Hydebank will be the first of an entire new infrastructure network to cover all of Northern Ireland, as it has been 40 years since the current network was built," he said.  

"In recent years there has been a higher proportion of people using DVA test centres and the access to this new site will be suitable for a significant proportion of the population."

Review

BBC News NI asked the DfI if it had considered reviewing the current testing model.

Vehicles are tested every year once they are four years old.

In some EU countries, including the Republic of Ireland, vehicles are tested every two years when over four years and less than ten years old.

The Road Safety Authority has tested almost 900,000 vehicles from 1 January to 31 July this year and currently has no backlogs.

A DfI spokesperson acknowledged there are a variety of models used across Europe.

"A previous consultation on the frequency of the MOT test, undertaken in GB, was met with significant opposition, mainly from motoring organisations and road safety campaigners.

"At this stage, and in the absence of ministers,  DVA and DfI have no plans to change the frequency of the MOT test here."

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