Fresh legal challenge against A5 road project is adjourned

Thursday, 6 September 2018

A FRESH legal challenge against the troubled A5 Western Transport Corridor (WTC) scheme has been adjourned. The development was confirmed this week by Peter May, the Department for Infrastructure's (DfI) permanent secretary.
Work was due to begin earlier this year on the first phase between Newbuildings and Strabane, but was put on hold because of the judicial review.
The bid to halt the scheme has been mounted by a group made up of landowners, farmers and supporters living along the proposed route - collectively termed the Alternative A5 Alliance (AA5A) - and had been due to get underway yesterday (Tuesday).
The department had indicated last month that it would seek an adjournment after conceding that a high profile court ruling earlier this year that senior civil servants should not have approved a planned 240 million waste incinerator in Mallusk in the absence of the Stormont Executive, has implications for the project.
It is understood that the decision last November by Mr May to push the scheme forward to construction stage with the lack of a minister in position - as well as other environmental factors - is among the grounds of objections being mounted in the AA5A's case.
Funding for the scheme had already been signed off prior to the collapse of Stormont and at the time, Mr May said the decision took into "account of the clear direction from the previous Executive that this flagship project should commence as soon as possible."
Mr May has since confirmed his department is considering the ruling and is awaiting direction from the Attorney General, John Larkin, who has written to the Supreme Court seeking clarity on what the incinerator ruling means for the scheme.
In a letter to the SDLP's Daniel McCrossan, Mr May confirmed that the application for an adjournment to the court challenge has been agreed and that the case has been postponed until mid autumn.
"I can now advise that this adjournment has been granted and the case has been listed for mention on October 12, 2018, to review the position with regard to the Attorney General's reference to the Supreme Court. The judge proposes to give further directions concerning the preparation of the case and a date for the hearing at mention.
"Until the outcome of legal proceedings is known, I am afraid I cannot be more definitive as to when works might commence," he said.
Commenting on the adjournment, Daniel McCrossan - a fervent supporter of the project - said: "It is important that clarity is provided from the Supreme Court over whether ministers can sign off on projects. I remain hopeful that the scheme can progress following this judicial review challenge in considering Phase One was signed off by the previous Executive," the West Tyrone MLA.
Mr McCrossan, who has previously voiced his concerns that political deadlock could see the scheme shelved permanently, added: "It's important to remember how we got here and that is due to political parties putting narrow-minded political interests before the people. People living here deserve much better, they deserve proper infrastructure and they deserve the jobs and investment that comes with it.
"This road scheme is absolutely vital for this area. People are needlessly dying on our roads, especially young people. Those holding this scheme back are doing nothing to stop it."


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