Construction on A5 project to begin in early 2018.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

WORK will begin on part of the A5 road project between Newbuildings and Strabane early next year, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) has announced.

The 15km stretch of road will cost an estimated 150 million.

Yesterday (Tuesday), the department's Permanent Secretary, Peter May, said work on the scheme will get underway in 2018.

It follows the outcome of a second public inquiry and subsequent recommendations by the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC).

A report by the inspector who overseen the inquiry said the scheme must proceed "in the wider public interest".

Commenting on the progression of the scheme, Mr May said: "This decision concurs with the Planning Appeals Commission recommendation that the scheme should proceed in the wider public interest.

"Before giving approval for the scheme to proceed, careful consideration was given to the PAC report and the department's assessment of the environmental impacts of the scheme.

"In proceeding with the scheme, the department commits to carrying out the necessary actions to implement the PAC recommendations and mitigation measures as described in the department's Statement and the Environmental Statement.

Construction will start as soon as possible." He continued: "The decision to proceed takes account of the clear direction from the previous Executive that this flagship project should commence as soon as possible.

"The outgoing Infrastructure Minister was also clear that the A5WTC scheme was a key priority. This is a strategically important project for the region and one which will benefit the economy as a whole, as well as improving journey times and road safety for the thousands of daily users of this route.

"In the current economic climate, this announcement of Phase 1a of the scheme - a 15 kilometre stretch of new dual carriageway from Newbuildings to north of Strabane - starting in early 2018 will be welcome news for the construction industry."

Mr May said the scheme should lead to an increase in demand for local suppliers of construction materials, as well as boosting commercial trade in the surrounding area.

"There will also be a considerable focus on social sustainability with the construction contract incorporating targeted recruitment and training opportunities for both young and long-term unemployed people.

Phase 1a has an estimated cost of 150 million to deliver.

Under the Fresh Start Agreement the Irish government has agreed to contribute 75million over three years," he added.

The A5 scheme is an Executive flagship project which will provide 85 kilometres of dual carriageway commencing at Newbuildings, bypassing Strabane, Newtownstewart, Omagh, Ballygawley and Aughnacloy before terminating at the existing A5 just south of Aughnacloy.

Further phases of the scheme will be constructed on confirmation of funding, while Phase 3 (between Ballygawley and the border at Aughnacloy) remains on hold pending clarification from the Irish government on its proposals for the adjoining N2.

It is one of five key transport corridors in the region and the proposed upgrade will improve links between urban centres in the west and provide a strategic link with international g ateways.

In order to discharge its obligation under the Habitats Regulations the department commissioned the preparation of a number of reports of information to Inform an appropriate assessment relating to the likely impacts of the A5WTC upon Special Protection Areas (SPAs), Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Ramsar sites.

The reports have been the subject of consultation with statutory bodies, other interested parties and the general public and have been updated in light of all consultation responses received, any changes in circumstances, the public inquiry process and any additional information available to the department.

The final versions of these reports, together with a Habitats Regulations Assessment summary report, set out an assessment of those impacts.

Accordingly, in light of the assessment undertaken and the information presented within the reports, the Habitats Regulations Assessment Summary Report and the Environmental Statement, the department (as the competent authority) is satisfied, taking account of the proposed mitigation measures, that the construction and operation of the A5 would not, by itself or in combination with other known plans or projects, adversely affect the integrity of the River Foyle and Tributaries SAC, the Owenkillew River SAC, the River Finn SAC, the Tully Bog SAC, the Lough Foyle SPA, the Lough Swilly SPA, the Lough Neagh and Lough Beg SPA, the Lough Foyle Ramsar Site or the Lough Neagh and Lough Beg Ramsar Site, in view of their conservation objectives.

The department will now publish the formal notice of intention to proceed, make available to the public the PAC report and the department's statement, make the direction order for the length of the scheme between Newbuildings and Ballygawley, and make the Vesting Order for Phase 1a between Newbuildings and north of Strabane.


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