Sunday 18 February 2018

Bid to stop road close to Heaney's former home fails

Seamus Heaney’s childhood home was at Mossbawn, Derry. Photo: Getty Images
Seamus Heaney’s childhood home was at Mossbawn, Derry. Photo: Getty Images

Alan Erwin

An ornithologist has failed in a fresh legal bid to stop a dual carriageway going through landscape made famous by poet Seamus Heaney.

Chris Murphy was seeking to overturn a previous ruling that the plans to build a section of the A6 Belfast to Derry upgrade close to wetland where migratory birds forage are lawful.

But judges in the North's Court of Appeal rejected his claims that the environmental assessment was out of date and required further analysis due to the passage of time.

Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan held that a Stormont minister's decision to proceed with the scheme last year complied with the Habitats Directive. He said: "The 2016 statement addressed the impacts on each of the significant features."

Mr Murphy, who brought the case as a personal litigant, signalled he may now seek to take his fight to the UK's supreme court in London. The legal battle centred on the disputed Toome to Castledawson stretch of road close to Mossbawn, Co Derry - the childhood home of the former Nobel laureate poet. The route was identified following a public inquiry nearly a decade ago.

Former Northern Ireland infrastructure minister Chris Hazzard gave the green light to the scheme last year in a bid to significantly improve a major transport corridor. Proceedings examined ecological checks made to potential disturbance to the wintering swans on nearby Lough Neagh and Lough Beg.

Earlier this year, a high court judge held that the department's decision was lawful and rational.

Representing himself once again in an appeal against that verdict, Mr Murphy claimed the project was based on environmental information from nearly a decade ago.

He insisted the authorities were legally required to carry out a new appropriate assessment of the ecological impact under Article 6 of the Habitats Directive.

Instead, he claimed, the analysis carried out in 2016 was "not fit for purpose".

Ruling on the appeal, Mr Justice Morgan rejected contentions that a further appropriate assessment was required due to the passage of time.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News