Border bridge gets green light
The first bridge to link Northern Ireland and the Republic since partition has moved a step closer to becoming a reality and could be open to traffic in less than three years.
An Bord Pleanala has granted planning permission for the €18m Narrow Water bridge across the Newry River, but the project is dependent on EU funding to go ahead.
The single-lane cable bridge will be 660 metres long and will connect Omeath in Co Louth with Warrenpoint in Co Down. It will be able to open to allow tall ships and other leisure craft access.
So far, €900,000 has been spent on the project which is among 12 shortlisted to secure funds from the EU. It is hoped the bridge will open by mid-2015.
A decision on funding is expected early next year, with construction to begin later in 2013.
The approval comes after Northern Ireland Environment Minister Alex Attwood last week granted permission for the project, which is a partnership between Louth County Council, Newry and Mourne District Council and the East Border Region.
Louth County Council cathaoirleach Finnan McCoy said the planning permission was an "important milestone".
The bridge was designed by Dublin-based engineers Roughan & O'Donovan.
It will be located just beside Narrow Water Castle which became synonymous with the single worst loss of life of British soldiers in the Troubles, when two IRA bombs killed 18 soldiers.