Green light for A6 as High Court dismisses Whooper Swan and Seamus Heaney challenge

The A6 upgrade
The A6 upgrade

A major road block to the ongoing A6 dualling project was removed on Tuesday after a High Court judge dismissed a legal challenge which had been lodged by bird expert and environmental campaigner Chris Murphy.

Back in November Mr. Murphy was granted leave to seek a judicial review of the decision by Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard to proceed with the massive £160million road project.

Mr. Murphy contended that the procedure of the road scheme through ‘Seamus Heaney Country’ and important habitats for wintering Whooper Swans and other wildlife breached the terms of the EU Habitats Directive, which is designed to protect the environment.

However, in Belfast today a High Court judge dismissed the challenge.

Reacting to the decision, the Department for Infrastructure said the road would make benefit commuters and cut down on road deaths.

A spokesperson said: “Today’s decision means 18,000 road users and the local community are set to directly benefit as the new dual carriageway will reduce journey times and improve road safety.

“The scheme is predicted to result in a saving of almost 600 collisions over its 60 year economic life.”

The Department also welcomed the High Court’s acknowledgment of its diligence in terms of its environmental protection responsibilities.

The spokesperson continued: “The ruling has also recognised the care and attention we take, with the statutory environmental bodies, to preserve, protect and develop environmentally sensitive areas under consideration for road development.

“The local construction industry will also see a considerable benefit with this £160million scheme delivering local jobs and investment.

“The Department has committed to introducing ‘Buy Social’ clauses into this contract which will generate new entrant trainee employment in the form of apprenticeships and graduate jobs.

“The works will specifically create between 15-20 new paid employment and training opportunities over the construction period.”

The Department said work on the road will recommence soon.

“Preliminary works on the project have continued to be progressed in accordance with the environmental commitments given and the objective is to complete the scheme in 2021. It is the Department’s intention to commence major construction works on the scheme as soon as possible.”