Wesley Johnston: The A6 went through due process but it has been delayed and disrupted

The environmentalist Chris Murphy, who is challenging the new A6 dual carriageway being built through scenery associated with the poet Seamus Heaney. Picture by Press Eye 'in November 2016
The environmentalist Chris Murphy, who is challenging the new A6 dual carriageway being built through scenery associated with the poet Seamus Heaney. Picture by Press Eye 'in November 2016

Yesterday saw the latest twist in the long-running legal battle between environmentalist Chris Murphy and the Department for Infrastructure over the plan to upgrade the notorious stretch of the A6 between Toome and Castledawson to dual carriageway.

Mr Murphy (see links below) objects to the route of the road where it runs near Lough Beg on the grounds that it will impact on swans who nest there. While the road does pass near the wetland, it does not run through the area in question.

There have been objections to the route of the new A6 dual carriageway.

There have been objections to the route of the new A6 dual carriageway.

Mr Murphy suggests that a better route would be through the former aerodrome south of the existing A6.

Unlike an environmentalist, who looks at a complex issue such as infrastructure through a single lens, TransportNI have to consider routes against a whole range of criteria including usefulness to the public, severance of communities, differing land costs, road safety as well as the environment.

They assessed a number of routes, including the southerly route favoured by Mr Murphy.

It was their carefully assessed view that the route chosen gave the best balance between the various factors, and the 2007 inspector agreed.

Wesley Johnston, founder and editor of NI Roads website

Wesley Johnston, founder and editor of NI Roads website

However Mr Murphy disagreed and launched legal action in September 2016, days before work was to begin, alleging various breaches by TransportNI.

The action resulted in a six month delay to the project and when the case was finally heard TransportNI were vindicated, being found to have carried out all their environmental assessments correctly.

Despite this, the taxpayer has had to pay almost all the legal costs since Mr Murphy’s costs were capped at £5,000.

Undeterred, however, Mr Murphy launched an appeal of this decision in April which has resulted in a further delay to the stretch near Lough Beg.

Letters to Editor

Letters to Editor

This appeal was to have been heard yesterday, but it has now been adjourned until the middle of August – apparently because Mr Murphy has been working abroad for three weeks and has not had time to prepare his case.

TransportNI now estimate that the legal action has cost the taxpayer over £8 million, despite them having been shown in court to have done all their work on the scheme correctly.

Part of living in an ordered society is recognising that things will happen that you passionately disagree with, and that once you have had your say, the correct response is to graciously admit defeat rather than continuously seeking to disrupt and delay work that has already been through due process.

Wesley Johnston, Founder Northern Ireland Roads website, Belfast

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