Northern Ireland

A6 upgrade: Environmentalist appeals against A6 ruling

Chris Murphy Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Chris Murphy, seen here at an earlier court appearance, lodged an appeal against the judgment on Tuesday

An environmentalist who lost a court case challenging the route of a major road scheme close to landscape made famous by poet Seamus Heaney has lodged an appeal against the ruling.

Chris Murphy had gone to court to contest the route of the A6 dual carriageway at Toomebridge.

A High Court judge ruled in March that work could proceed on a section of the £160m new road that skirts Lough Beg.

Mr Murphy said it was an area of "enormous cultural heritage".

Last week, it was announced that major construction work on the A6 would begin within weeks.

Image caption The A6 is the main Belfast to Derry road and is heavily used

However, only minor work will take place along the contested section as Mr Murphy had previously indicated that he intended to challenge the decision.

In his initial challenge, Mr Murphy had claimed that the proper environmental checks had not been done and the decision to proceed had been based on out-of-date surveys.

But lawyers for the Department for Infrastructure had argued that the assessments were based on accurate and regularly-updated information.

They said the chosen route did not cut through the protected wetland.

The judge found the appropriate assessments had been carried out and the decision to proceed with the road had been rational and lawful.

Announcing that he had lodged his appeal on Tuesday, Mr Murphy said: "I am not 'anti-road' as some recent comments have portrayed me, I support dualling of the A6 and smoother travel between Belfast and the north west.

Image caption Seamus Heaney was said to be inspired by the views near his home

"What I cannot support is the destruction of internationally important wetlands and an area of enormous cultural heritage.

"The area that would be impacted is a designated Special Protection Area due to its ecological value. It is the most important site in Ireland for the Whooper Swan and many other rare species of wildlife.

Image caption Whooper swans from Iceland pictured at Lough Beg

"In terms of history and heritage, the government's chosen route would impact significantly on a landscape made famous by Seamus Heaney. This should be an area to conserve and promote, not bulldoze and destroy."

Lough Beg is an important habitat for birds, including migratory swans, and has international protection.

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