Colr. McKinney was speaking after Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon published the report on the proceedings of the inquiry from the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) into the scheme, and a question tabled by his part colleague Andrew Muir MLA.
The PAC Commissioner has made a total of 30 recommendations including that the topics of flood risk and scheme alternatives had not been properly considered within the Environmental Statement Addendum 2019 and needed to be revisited. It means more work on this is needed and the Public Inquiry will have to be reopened next year.
“It’s totally frustrating,” said Colr. McKinney. “The A5 scheme was announced in 2007 and not a metre of tarmac laid yet. That’s 14 years! And we’ve had three public enquiries and three legal challenges.
“In February I got our Alliance Infrastructure Spokesperson Andrew Muir MLA to ask Minister Mallon for completion dates for work on each of the three sections: Newbuildings to Strabane; Strabane to Omagh; and Omagh to Aughnacloy. And now he has received the Minister’s response that there is another delay, with no completion dates mentioned.
“I know Minister Mallon is personally committed to this scheme, but the A5 is one of the most dangerous roads in Northern Ireland. Around 40 people have lost their lives on this road since 2006. The Derry-Strabane part is one of the main traffic arteries in our Council area. It’s dreadful.
“So now the Minister will get another addition to the Environmental Statement. This will go out to public consultation at the end of this year. Then the Public Enquiry will re-start in 2022 and hopefully finish and report to the Minister in 2022, So does this mean the earliest work will start is 2023?” Colr. McKinney asked.
“It’s totally frustrating!”
In response to Mr Muir, the Minister reiterated her commitment to the A5 project.
Speaking about the sequence of events expected next, she said: “I have accepted the Commissioner’s key recommendation regarding the preparation of and consultation on further documents on the important topics of flood risk and the consideration of alternatives to the proposed scheme. I also published the Department’s formal response to all the recommendations made by the PAC in the form of an Interim Departmental Statement.
“I also asked officials to prepare a further addendum to the Environmental Statement for consultation in early autumn 2021.
“I anticipate that this approach will lead to the re-opening of the Public Inquiry, as recommended by the Planning Appeals Commission, early next year. It will enable the Inquiry to consider further public representations made on the two key topics of flood risk and scheme alternatives and furnish the Department with its final report later in 2022 allowing a decision to be made on the next steps for this important, transformative scheme.”