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Department of Infrastructure pays out almost £1 million for legal advice in eight months

The Department of Infrastructure has spent almost £1 million on legal advice since it was created in May last year

THE Department of Infrastructure has spent almost £1 million on legal advice in the first eight months of its existence.

The department, which was created in May last year, has spent £994,000 to date on 'external legal advice'.

It means the department has paid out almost £120,000 a month - or around £4,000 every single day - on the fees.

The figure was disclosed by Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard in response to a written Assembly question from UUP North Antrim MLA Robin Swann.

Since its inception the Department of Infrastructure has been making attempts to progress three major road schemes; the York Street interchange in Belfast, the A5 linking Derry and Aughnacloy and the A6 between Derry and Belfast.

All have run into difficulties amid concerns over funding, the holding of public inquiries and opposition through judicial reviews.

In October, it emerged that a challenge to the A5 road project between Derry and Ballygawley had cost taxpayers around £50,000 in legal fees since May.

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard said at the time that the costs were "necessary to allow the department to robustly defend its position".

On Tuesday, Mr Hazzard announced £4m of funding to progress the York Street Interchange to allow the scheme to be brought to a "construction ready state", but added that funding for the construction work was not yet secured.

Earlier this month Wesley Johnston, who runs the Northern Ireland Roads blog, said that major road projects would be further stalled by the collapse of the Executive.

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