Northern Ireland

A5 Public Inquiry delays move to smaller venue as large numbers expected for road safety hearing

A Public Inquiry has resumed in Omagh into the proposed A5 road upgrade that was first announced in 2007.
A Public Inquiry has resumed in Omagh into the proposed A5 road upgrade that was first announced in 2007.

A "GROUNDSWELL of interest" in the A5 public inquiry has prompted a change of venue for a hearing later this month on road safety, in order to accommodate an expected large number of attendees.

The resumed inquiry into the A5 Western Transport Corridor project is currently taking place in Omagh's Strule Arts Centre, and following a weeks' break next week will resume on May 30.

However, plans to move the inquiry to the smaller Omagh Enterprise Centre will be delayed by a day, as the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) conducting the inquiry predicts large numbers attending on May 30 when road safety aspects of the proposed project are discussed.

Issues examined this week include flood risks and the impact to local businesses of the proposal to build 53 miles of dual carriageway between Aughacloy and Derry.

The project has been hit with delays including legal challenges since it was first announced in 2007.

Since then, 47 people have lost their lives on the existing A5.

Speaking at Wednesday's session at Strule Arts Centre, Commissioner Gareth Kerr said a decision has been made to return to the venue on the first day of the inquiry's resumption on May 30.

“We are conscious that there has been a groundswell of interest in this inquiry and do not want to run the risk of being unable to accommodate everyone who wants to attend at the smaller room at the Omagh Enterprise Centre," he said.

A spokesperson for the Tyrone GAA-founded campaign group A5: Enough is Enough, which was formed following the death of four young players on the A5 in less than a year, referred in a social media post on Wednesday to the inquiry's discussion this week on how communities might be "cut off" as a result of constructing a new road.

"On Tue 30th May you will have an opportunity to advise how family bonds have been severed and lives changed forever as a result of delays to the scheme," they said.