Delays could see A5 scheme lose £millions

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FOR every month that the controversial A5 dualling project is delayed, £10million could be redirected to other projects, it was confirmed yesterday.

In July, the Roads Minister Danny Kennedy gave the go-ahead for two stretches of dual carriageway to be built along the A5.

The £330m project - which will be largest ever undertaken in the province - will improve the roads between Ballygawley and Omagh - and New Buildings and Strabane.

However a last minute legal challenge to the scheme’s approval was lodged by the Alternative A5 Alliance before vesting of agricultural land was due to begin.

A spokesperson for Mr Kennedy’s department confirmed that “for every months delay to the project, £10m may need to be re-profiled from DRD A5 funds into other projects (in DRD or declared back to the NI Block for use by other Departments in the current year).”

The spokesperson also confirmed that there could be additional costs to the project of up to £750k a month as a result of delays

“Senior Council has been instructed by the Department to strongly rebut the legal challenge,” the spokesperson for the Department of Regional Development added.

DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt who chairs the DRD committee said he was taken aback by the potential loss of millions of pounds for the project.

“It is something we had not anticipated, £10m a month will go back into the central kitty,” he said.

“The project was ready to go with anything between 750 and 1,000 jobs created, so the economics of the whole thing is very worrying indeed.”

Sinn Fein’s Declan McAleer, who sits on the DRD committee at Stormont, said he was “shocked”.

“The project is ready to start with contracts scheduled to be signed in October and at a time when the construction industry is on its knees, it is incredibly frustrating that upwards on 800 jobs are now on hold due to this delay.

“Whilst I defend the right of people to object to the scheme, it must be borne in mind that this delay is causing a huge loss to the local economy.”

In an interview, two weeks ago John Dunbar,from the A5 Alliance said he hoped that the legal challenge will lead the DRD to review their original decision to go ahead with the dual carriageway and investigate options not previously considered.

“We felt the need to lodge the application as we do not feel that every avenue was explored during the decision-making process.

“There was only ever one option considered and that was a dual carriageway. There are of course other minor elements, including the impact on the farmer at this particular time, but at this moment we wish to say nothing more and let the law take its course,” he told a local newspaper.