Funding for border bridge across Carlingford Lough approved
A NEW cross border bridge has been given the green light after Northern Ireland stumped up its share of £14 million sterling construction funding.
The Narrow Water bridge will link counties Down and Louth across Carlingford Lough.
The majority of the build is being paid for with EU funding - but a £10 million plus commitment from Europe would only have been released if the authorities north and south agreed to provide a proportion of match funding.
Stormont's Finance department, which was the last body to commit to fund the scheme, will now give almost £2.7 million to the bridge.
Finance Minister Sammy Wilson gave approval for the project on a number of financial conditions and undertakings from both Louth and Newry and Mourne councils.
Mr Wilson said the blueprint also had to be approved by Stormont's Roads Minister Danny Kennedy, with the plans subject to a public consultation.
"Funding of £14million for the Narrow Water Bridge has now been given approval subject to clarification on technical conditions applicable to the Letter of Offer," said Mr Wilson.
Local authority led cross border organisation East Border Region is the main partner in delivering the bridge project.
Its chairman, councillor Gerald Mallon, welcomed the decision by Mr Wilson, which will now see the funding letter of offer issued by the Special EU Programmes Body.
"The Narrow Water Bridge is a genuinely symbolic cross border project providing the first bridge linking Ireland and Northern Ireland and will provide a catalyst for both economic development and tourism within the region," he said.
"The Bridge development will provide much needed jobs in the construction sector in the short term and will undoubtedly enhance the tourism potential of the region as it acts as a gateway to the Mourne and Cooley Mountains."
The bridge, which will span 660 metres (2165 feet), could now be open by 2015.