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Birdwatcher in fresh bid to put brakes on £160m road

By Alan Erwin

An environmentalist is to seek an injunction as he considers appealing his failed legal bid to stop a planned new £160m dual carriageway going through landscape made famous by poet Seamus Heaney.

Chris Murphy confirmed in the High Court he would take steps to secure a prohibition on preliminary work to build a section of the A6 Belfast to Derry upgrade close to wetland where migratory birds forage.

He also told a judge that he lacked the financial means to pay for the unsuccessful challenge - even though his liability was capped at £5,000 under a heavily reduced protective costs order.

Mr Murphy said: "I have got no money, that wouldn't be hard to prove."

The ornithologist took legal action in an attempt to halt construction of the part of the road near Mossbawn, Co Derry - childhood home of the former Nobel laureate poet.

The route was identified following a public inquiry nearly a decade ago.

With commuters regularly facing rush-hour gridlock, former Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard gave the green light to the scheme last year in a bid to significantly improve the major transport corridor.

Proceedings centred on ecological checks made to potential disturbance to whooper swans on Lough Neagh and Lough Beg from the disputed Toome to Castledawson stretch.

Mr Murphy, who represented himself, claimed the plans would cause irreparable harm.

In impassioned submissions, he compared building a road through the site to cutting away at a Rembrandt masterpiece.

Further assessments have been carried out since the Department first made checks on the presence of nesting birds, badgers and bats.

But the court had to determine whether these actions were part of a fulfillment of obligations under the relevant habitats directive.

Last week Mrs Justice Keegan ruled that the decision-making process was lawful and rational.

Returning to the case yesterday, she gave Mr Murphy until April 25 to confirm if he intended to appeal her decision.

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