A leading conservationist has refuted claims by the Department of Infrastructure (DfI) that its proposed route for an extension to the A6 is the best.
The department hopes to upgrade a stretch of the main road between the two largest cities in Northern Ireland, Belfast and Londonderry, to replace the existing route from Castledawson in Co Londonderry to the M22 motorway to Belfast.
Ornithologist and wildlife expert Chris Murphy claims the £160m project, originally quoted at £34m in 2005, is neither economically nor environmentally efficient and will cause unnecessary disruption to protected swans and destruction of the best fresh water wetlands in Ireland.
The department, however, has long argued that the chosen route – the red route – was its preferred option “on the basis of economic, engineering and environmental considerations”.
That route is closest to Ireland’s largest remaining wetland. Alongside its importance for a variety of scientific and environmental reasons, Mr Murphy argues that noise from the road will impact Whooper swans, who will also lose some of the fields they now use for grazing.
“This wetland has been home for the rare Whooper swan for generations and the proposed route for the dual carriageway threatens their environment, which is already marked as one of 16 Special Protected Areas in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“These are areas designated under the European Commission Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds.
“Despite this, the Department for Infrastructure maintains that the selected carriageway route is an appropriate choice.
“This is construction for the sake of destruction. It will cause unnecessary disruption to ecosystems.”