Vested A5 land given back but DfI hopeful

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Work on the Newbuildings to Strabane section of the A5 could begin by the end of this year the Department for Infrastructure has stated.

Seamus Keenan, Principal Engineer with the Strategic Road Improvement Team of TransportNI’s Western Division, has written to Derry City & Strabane District Council to update it on progress.

He said DfI was optimistic work could begin this year despite vested lands having been returned to their owners.

He outlined how a departmental Direction Order that set the Newbuildings to Ballygawley route in legislation and the vesting of lands for the Newbuildings to Strabane section, Phase 1a, were quashed late last year.

This was ordered at the High Court in November at the invitation of DfI, which believed it was not in the public interest to continue defending a legal challenge brought about by the Alternative A5 Alliance in December 2017.

Notwithstanding this DfI is due to make new directions and vesting orders in the hope of starting work this year.

“What this means in practice is that, in terms of process, the Department moves back to a point in time just before its decision to proceed with the scheme in November 2017 and, as a result, the Direction and Vesting Orders for the scheme are no longer in force,” wrote Mr. Keenan.

“For landowners in Phase 1 a, the lands that had been vested by the Department in January 2018 are therefore now back in their ownership with effect from November 16, 2018,” he added.

Mr. Keenan explained that the A5 remained a flagship priority and work to enable a fresh decision was continuing.

“This work is likely to include the publication of an addendum to the existing Environmental Statement followed by a six-week public consultation process. At the end of that period the Department will consider all representations made on the content of the addendum,” he wrote.

He suggested works on Phase 1a could start in late 2019.