Farmers try to find path to agreed compensation in A6 land dispute

Farmer Garry Galway, with his sons Nigel and Will and grandson David
Farmer Garry Galway, with his sons Nigel and Will and grandson David

Contractors have agreed to hold off on demolition work at a family farm in Co Londonderry where land has been seized by the government to make way for the A6 road scheme, according to the farmers.

Around 20 acres of the Galway family farm in Castledawson – not the entire farm but a significant portion – was vested in September to allow the A6 road scheme to proceed.

While the land has effectively been seized by the government, the farmers can appeal the level of compensation being offered if they believe it to be inadequate.

Nigel Galway, who works the family farm with his father, his brother and his nephew, told the News Letter the level of compensation offered is simply not enough for them to effectively replace what is being lost to make way for the new road.

His sister-in-law, Lynda Galway, told the News Letter the department has agreed to meet with the family to discuss their concerns.

Despite the disagreement between the farmers and the Department of Finance, Mr Galway said contractors arrived at the farm last Monday morning to begin work.

He said that while he was able to meet with the contractors and delay any demolition of the farm buildings on the site, he said he is unsure what he will do when demolition work does go ahead.

Nigel Galway said: “It has been vested since September last year but there has been no final agreement on the compensation.

“On Monday the contractors arrived and were looking to get started. I went over to them and they said they were told to go ahead with the work.

“They agreed not to do any demolition work at least but they have started digging work.”

Mr Galway continued: “I was told by the department that we would be given enough to replace what we are losing but the offer I’ve been given just isn’t enough for us to do that.”

He added: “I don’t know what we’ll do.”

The vesting order for the scheme, the legal procedure that transfers ownership of the land to the Department of Infrastructure, became active on September 27.

The News Letter asked the Department of Infrastructure whether they “intend to proceed with the works despite the concerns of the farmers?”

The department was also asked whether “it is appropriate that works should proceed while the level of compensation offered is disputed by the Galway family?”

Finally, the News Letter asked whether “the department believes the compensation offered is adequate and, if the Galway family disagree, what recourse is available to them?”

A spokesperson for the Department of Infrastructure said: “The department continues to engage with all affected landowners. These are sensitive matters and in order to respect confidentiality we do not comment on specific cases.

“If any landowners are not satisfied by the level of compensation offered, they are free to escalate the issue to the Lands Tribunal. This appeal process is independent of the department.”

The portion of the A6 that cuts across the Galway family farm has been planned for over a decade.

The A6 upgrade, the most important road between Northern Ireland’s two largest cities, Belfast and Londonderry, has been planned for at least a decade.

Work on dualling the M22 section of the road between Randalstown and Castledawson began in May after a series of lengthy delays stretching back over a period of years.

In August 2016, the then Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard announced at a press conference that the vesting order for the scheme would be made in September.

The vesting order for the scheme, the legal procedure that transfers ownership of the land to the Department of Infrastructure, became active on September 27.

The scheme is estimated to cost £160m for the 14.7km (nine miles) stretch.