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Minister insists it's full steam ahead for A6 upgrade despite go-ahead for legal challenge

By Alan Erwin

Published 25/11/2016

Jubilant: Chris Murphy
Jubilant: Chris Murphy

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard says he remains committed to the A6 Belfast to Londonderry upgrade.

His pledge comes after an environmentalist won High Court permission to challenge the planned £160m road being built through landscape made famous by poet Seamus Heaney.

Chris Murphy was granted leave to seek a judicial review over an alleged breach of a directive on a specially protected area near a section of the new road.

A judge said there was still uncertainty surrounding ecological checks carried out on the potential disturbance to wildlife on Lough Neagh and Lough Beg from the proposed Toome to Castledawson stretch.

Mr Murphy was jubilant at clearing the first stage in his bid to halt the road passing through an area near Mossbawn, Co Derry - the late Nobel laureate's childhood home.

"Heaney is fundamental to this landscape, the wild and the wet inspired him and he immortalised it in his work," he said.

"You have got dozens of places in his poetry that will be destroyed by the impact of the noise of a motorway so close to Mossbawn."

Mr Hazzard said: "The judgment today has ruled out five of the six grounds for judicial review and means that the substantive case will be heard on the one issue relating to the habitats directive.

"While I had hoped that we would be able to proceed with this strategically important project, we will play our part to ensure that, as Justice Maguire said, there will be a speedy date for a full hearing and I remain confident that we will be ultimately successful.

"I am absolutely committed to the construction of the A6, and will now explore our options for commencing construction on the unchallenged section of this project."

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said people were entitled to speedy judicial decision-making.

They said: "No one will dictate to judges how they decide cases but we are alarmed by the time it often takes to hear cases and the time it takes to obtain any decision."

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