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Northern Ireland news

Environmentalist vows to bring failed legal challenge to Co Derry road scheme to Europe

Lough Beg with grazing wild Whooper swans from Iceland in surrounding fields

AN environmentalist has vowed go to the European Court of Justice in his battle against a major road being built through Co Derry wetlands after the UK's highest court rejected his case.

The Supreme Court dismissed Chris Murphy's application to challenge the decision by the Department for Infrastructure to bring the upgraded Belfast to Derry route through an area near Lough Beg.

He had previously lost cases in the High Court and Court of Appeal.

A department spokeswoman said yesterday it "welcomes the decision by the Supreme Court and will proceed with the whole scheme, taking into account the constraints identified in the Environmental Statement".

Mr Murphy had argued that obligations under EU Habitats Directive legislation had not been fulfilled.

The area near Toomebridge is used by Whooper Swans but the department insisted a proper impact assessment had been carried out.

"My application was refused today but I remain 100 per cent convinced that the law is firmly on the side of these incredible wetlands, which are an irreplaceable habitat whose value to man and nature has not been given proper consideration," Mr Murphy said.

"It is simply perverse to allow this construction to go on and cause irreversible harm to a Special Protection Area when many alternative routes exist.

"The government is required in law to give these areas the strictest protection."

Sinn Féin infrastructure spokesman Philip McGuigan welcomed the court's decision, saying it "clears the way for the work to commence on the scheme and for it to be completed as soon as possible".

Work is already underway on parts of the £160m upgrade between the end of the M22 at Randalstown and Castledawson, converting around 12km to dual carriageway.

"The A6 project is key to enhancing connectivity, improving journey times from Derry to Belfast and unlocking the economic potential of the north west region," Mr McGuigan said.

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