Significant sum of objections to A5 are expected

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Roads Minister Michelle McIlveen says she envisages a significant number of objections to the A5 dual carriageway, the Newbuildings to Strabane section of which is scheduled to start next year.

The Minister says a public inquiry has been “tentatively programmed for autumn 2016” to deal with concerns.

She provided the update in response to an Assembly Question.

“As a significant number of objections are anticipated a Public Inquiry has been tentatively programmed for autumn 2016 and is expected to be administered by the Planning Appeals Commission,” said the Minister.

“Subject to the successful completion of all the statutory procedures and a satisfactory outcome from the Public Inquiry process, a decision can then be made regarding progression to the construction stage,” Ms McIlveen stated.

The Minister once again confirmed that the Newbuildings stretch of the road will begin construction in 2017 pending the inquiry.

“The A5 Western Transport Corridor dual carriageway scheme is one of the Northern Ireland Executive’s flagship projects and within the ‘A Fresh Start’ Agreement, a commitment has been made to commence construction of the first phase of the scheme, between New Buildings and north of Strabane, in 2017.

“As you will be aware, on February 11, 2016 I announced the start of consultations by my Department on new draft Statutory Orders and a new Environmental Statement for the scheme.

“This has led to the commencement of a formal consultation process on February 16, 2016 and this will run through to April 4, 2016.

“Public exhibitions were held over a four day period between 1 and 4 March 2016, at the Everglades Hotel, Londonderry; The Fir Trees Hotel Strabane; The Silverbirch Hotel, Omagh; and Smyth Memorial Hall in Ballygawley. (I understand you attended the Exhibition in the Silverbirch Hotel),” she stated.

At a previous inquiry into the road project, Barbara Hatrick, who was set to lose land, claimed the loss of 731 hectares of farm land to the new A5 Western Transport Corridor (WTC) could prove catastrophic to the local economy and affect food security to the degree that local people couldn’t afford food.

In 2012 she said: “I would also refer to the current debates taking place both on a national level and in Europe regarding food security. With food security being the ability to produce food at a price the poorest in society can afford to buy, this is why the loss of these 731 hectares of best land along this new A5 proposed route could prove catastrophic to the Northern Ireland economy.”