Monday 18 February 2019

Slane bypass plan rejected as "too close to heritage site"

Sarah Stack

PLANS for a controversial bypass around Slane village have been refused in order to protect a World Heritage Site.

An Bord Pleanala ruled that the proposed bridge and road in the Boyne Valley, Co Meath, was too close to Bru na Boinne.

The board said that, while there was an urgent need to alleviate the traffic safety concerns at Slane, an accident blackspot, it did not believe alternatives to the bypass had been explored.

The Bypass Slane Campaign, formed after a serious road accident in the village, said it was shocked and dismayed by the decision.

However, Save Newgrange welcomed the move to protect the area near the historical sites of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

Campaign spokesman Vincent Salafia said: "The Unesco World Heritage Site is our most popular tourist attraction, which will play a key role in our economic recovery, and it deserves the highest level of legal protection."

He called on authorities to immediately implement an HGV ban in the village to protect drivers, villagers and the local heritage.

Campaigners for the bypass argue that Slane has a medieval bridge and an 18th century road carrying 21st century articulated traffic.

White crosses have been erected beside the bridge in memory of the 22 people who have died over the years, including toddler David Garvey, who was killed in February 2001 when a lorry mounted the path.

Michele Power, of the Bypass Slane Campaign, said: "Life in the village, over generations, has been overwhelmed by the dangerous volumes of traffic and by the constant threat to life it brings.

"We now feel that as we have exhausted every avenue open to us that we are now entirely helpless.

"The decades of inaction and failure to deal decisively with this appalling situation are nothing short of a national scandal."

An Bord Pleanala found the new bridge would have been located within the viewshed of the Bru na Boinne, one of the most important prehistoric megalithic sites in Europe and of international importance.

Ms Power, who survived a multiple pile-up on the bridge in 2009, said the planned route was outside the buffer zone around the Bru na Boinne and set in a valley.

She believed the visual impact would have been acceptable in light of the loss of life on the road.

"The clear need for the Slane bypass relates directly to road safety," she added.

"Twenty-two people have died on the roads of Slane so far, many others have suffered serious injury, while there have been countless, often unreported, lucky escapes.

"For over 40 years our community has been convinced that the only solution to the serious road safety situation is a bypass of our village.

"Today our hopes of finally being freed from this intolerable situation have been completely destroyed with the decision of the bord to refuse permission for the Slane bypass."

An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, said the refusal was an eminently logical decision and protected a very important piece of Irish national heritage.

A spokesman said the trust has always been conscious of the safety of the people of Slane and believe there is no reason why any truck should pass through the village.

"An Taisce has called for many years for a thorough truck ban in Slane combined with the removal of tolls for trucks at Drogheda," it stated.

"This must be implemented and enforced now."

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