Northern Ireland

Alternative A5 Alliance defends legal challenge to new road

A5 road
The DRD committee fears the legal challenge to the A5 road scheme could go on indefinitely

The group leading a legal challenge against the new A5 road between Londonderry and Aughnacloy has defended its decision to take court action.

Work on the carriageway has been held up indefinitely by the case launched by the Alternative A5 Alliance (AA5A).

The Department for Regional Development (DRD) had set aside £10m per month for the project but this will be given back to Stormont while the road is delayed.

John Dunbar from AA5A said the finances were "entirely a matter for the DRD".

"It shouldn't have been any surprise to them that we were determined about this," the AA5A chairman said.

'Livelihood'

Mr Dunbar said the campaign group had been in existence for two and a half years and he claimed the DRD had "ample time to watch their back as far as finance is concerned".

"We're entitled to defend our interests and our livelihood and our way of life in the country and I would put the blame entirely at the feet of the DRD.

"They're in charge of the finance, they ought to have a fall back situation or provision made for these things and it should not have been any surprise whatsoever to anybody that this was happening," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

On Thursday, the chairman of the DRD committee said it was "astonishing" and "worrying" that millions needed to fund the project would have to handed back into Stormont's central budget every month.

"It is something we had not anticipated, £10m a month will go back into the central kitty," Jimmy Spratt said.

"The project was ready to go with anything between 750 and 1,000 jobs created, so the economics of the whole thing is very worrying indeed."

The A5 scheme had already been the subject of a public inquiry, which attracted more than 2,000 objections to the plan.

It was given the go-ahead by the DRD Minister Danny Kennedy in July.

'Human rights'

His department published its intention to make vesting orders for land along the route in August and work on the dual carriageway was due to begin next month.

However, the scheme was halted on 10 September when the DRD was notified of the A5AA legal challenge.

Asked why his group had waited until after the public inquiry to launch their case, Mr Dunbar said: "It takes time to mount these things and be prepared for it, particularly in terms of paying our way."

The chairman added: "Human rights are at stake here and the livelihoods of 400 farmers and landowners is at stake, so we've every right to try to defend what we think is an unjustifiable scheme."

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