A6 'does not cut through protected area', court told

By Conor Macauley
BBC NI Agriculture & Environment Correspondent

image captionThe A6 upgrade will cover a nine-mile stretch from the Toome bypass to Castledawson

The planned route of a controversial new dual carriageway in Northern Ireland does not cut through a protected wetland, a court has heard.

The case was made by a lawyer for the Department of Infrastructure.

It is opposing a legal challenge, from environmentalist Chris Murphy, to the proposed route of the A6 at Toome in County Antrim.

The new A6 passes close to Lough Beg, a protected wetland which is an important habitat for overwintering swans.

However, the lawyer said it did not "traverse the defined boundaries" of the protected area.


He added court that survey work done after the building of the existing A6 showed swans foraging "right up to the road".

"It's people that disturb swans, not cars," he said.

The department's lawyer added that the proposed new dual carriageway had a relatively small impact on the foraging grounds for swans and that they regularly changed where they fed.

Earlier the court heard 133 landowners have had their ground vested along the proposed route.

The department has already bought the land and agreed compensation.

As Mr Murphy was not seeking the quashing of the vesting orders, if he won, the department would be left with the land and the compensation bill.

This, the lawyer said, would be a "severe potential public prejudice" not just to the public purse but to landowners who had not opposed the vesting orders.

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