Road chiefs to face legal action over A6 in ‘Seamus Heaney Country'

Some local people are opposed to a new road being built in an area associated with poet Seamus Heaney
Connla Young

PLANS to build a £160 million road through an area closely associated with poet Seamus Heaney are set to face a legal challenge.

Legal papers are understood to have been lodged with the High Court in Belfast on Tueday.

It is believed the challenge will hinge on claims that road chiefs did not carry out proper environmental assessments before the project, which was due to begin later this year, was give the green light by Stormont minister Chris Hazzard.

It is believed the challenge is similar to one mounted by the Alternative A5 Alliance (AA5A) when it succeeded in winning a judicial review against plans to build a dual carriageway between Derry and Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone in 2012.

The plan to build the four-lane dual carriageway through south Derry have been branded “sacrilegious” by local opponents.

The route, linking the main Derry to Belfast road at Toome with the M2, will cut through an area close to Lough Beg and Mossbawn - the poet’s former home near Castledawson.

The house is near Anahorish, which is featured in two of Heaney’s poems bearing its name.

The legal action, which being taken by a private individual, comes after the ‘Save Heaney Country’ campaign received high profile backing from people involved in the arts.

The planned road is due to be built close to an Area of Special Scientific Interest and a Ramsar site which protects internationally important wetland sites.

Friends of the Earth director James Orr said several key assessments have not been carried out properly.

“Yet again we see that these assessments that are meant to be carried out for strategic projects in Northern Ireland appear to be fundamentally flawed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mid Ulster District Council has said it “supports the development of the strategic road network in the Mid Ulster area”.

The comments came ahead of the official opening of a new centre dedicated to Heaney in nearby Bellaghy later this week.

In a statement the council said it “also recognises that with any major road infrastructure project it is important that the environmental impacts are fully considered.

“Addressing adverse impacts, and putting measures in place to mitigate against them, will be particularly important for the A6 road scheme,” the spokeswoman said.

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