Northern Ireland news

Shelved Narrow Water Bridge plans cost Louth County Council €2m

Plans for the proposed cross-border Narrow Water bridge
Brendan Hughes

A SHELVED cross-border bridge project that saw its planning permission lapse some months ago has cost a southern council almost €2m.

The Narrow Water Bridge aimed to link north and south at Carlingford Lough, between Omeath in Co Louth and Narrow Water Castle near Warrenpoint, Co Down.

Planning permission was granted in 2012, with funding secured from the European Union and governments on both sides of the border.

But the project was shelved in 2013 after it emerged costs had been significantly underestimated. Louth County Council said the €18m originally budgeted for was at least €12m shy of what was required.

Despite an 11th-hour bid to meet the shortfall, the withdrawal of EU funding, which led to Stormont pulling out, saw the proposal collapse.

Planning permission for the cable-stayed bridge expired in October, meaning a fresh application would have to be submitted to revive the project.

Louth County Council, which led on the scheme and submitted the plans to planning officials in the north for approval, has now confirmed it spent €1,966,054.73 on the project.

Stormont's Department for Infrastructure (DfI) said the project was taken forward by Louth County Council along with the then Newry and Mourne District Council.

It said the old Department for Regional Development (DRD) "had no role in that project and therefore no costs were incurred by the department".

It added: "Ministers agreed through the North South Ministerial Council Plenary to explore options for progressing the Narrow Water Bridge and this work is jointly lead by the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland and the Department for Tourism, Transport and Sport in Ireland.

"This work remains ongoing and no significant costs have been incurred at this stage."

The details were revealed to The Irish News in response to Freedom of Information requests.

Newry, Mourne and Down council was also asked whether it had incurred any costs on the project so far, but it did not respond.

Jim Boylan, chair of the Narrow Water Bridge Community Network, remains optimistic that the project will be completed and the money spent so far will not be in vain.

He said a paper is being prepared for the North South Ministerial Council, but the lack of a Stormont executive is stalling progress on the project.

"The only thing that's holding it up is that there is no executive in the north, but as soon as that executive is up that paper will go to the North South Ministerial Council, and we expect a positive outcome to that," he said.

"We see the project as very much alive, especially in this time of Brexit. On the money aspect, I think it is money well spent because it's a great tourism project," he said.

"We are now going into Brexit and they have agreed that there will be no borders. This is the ideal all-island project that will boost tourism."

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