Scope of legal challenge to A5 road project widened

A Stormont department is to face a widened legal challenge over approving Northern Ireland's biggest roads project, a High Court judge has confirmed.

Tuesday, 3rd July 2018, 3:39 pm
Updated Monday, 16th July 2018, 5:09 pm
Construction on the first phase of the A5 project should have already begun

A campaign group has already issued proceedings aimed at halting the A5 Western Transport Corridor scheme.

But Mrs Justice Keegan ruled that separate environmental points raised by an individual resident should also feature when the Alternative A5 Alliance’s case is heard in September.

Kathleen Christie is mounting her own bid for a judicial review of the multi-million pound dual carriageway upgrade linking counties Derry and Tyrone.

Appearing as a personal litigant, she claims a failure to properly consider McKean’s Moss bogland – an area of special scientific interest.

Ms Christie has also raised issues about the road’s potential impact on migrating geese and swans.

The judge held that she was not prepared to either dismiss her case or grant leave to seek a judicial review at this stage.

Instead, she said: “I propose to hold a rolled-up hearing of all the environmental issues to be heard alongside the Alternative A5 Alliance’s case.

“That is not a guarantee of success.”

In November last year the Department for Infrastructure announced its decision to proceed with the planned route.

The initiative involves a new 53-mile trunk road running from New Buildings, via Strabane, Newtownstewart, Omagh and Ballygawley, and terminating near the border at Aughnacloy.

Construction on phase one had been due to get under way earlier this year, at a cost of £150m.

But that was put on hold after fresh proceedings were launched by the Alternative A5 Alliance.

In 2013 the group, made up of landowners, farmers and supporters, won its first legal action against the project.

At that stage a judge quashed the decision to press ahead with the scheme, which forms part of a proposed key cross-border business route linking Dublin and the north west, due to a breach of a habitats directive.

Lawyers representing the alliance have now brought a new case against the notice to proceed.

One of the grounds of challenge relates to that decision being taken by the department’s permanent secretary in the absence of a minister.

Issues around environmental assessments are also now expected to feature.