Northern Ireland

A6 upgrade: Environmentalist loses bid over 'Heaney' road

View near Seamus Heaney's former home
Image caption Seamus Heaney was said to be inspired by the views near his home

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

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

A section of the £160m new road skirts Lough Beg just outside the County Antrim village.

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

Image caption Whooper swans from Iceland pictured at Lough Beg

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Murphy had claimed that the proper environmental checks had not been done and the decision to proceed had been based on out-of-date surveys.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Chris Murphy says he will appeal the judgement

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.

Image caption The A6 upgrade will cover a nine-mile stretch from the Toome bypass to Castledawson

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

Mr Murphy told BBC Radio Foyle on Tuesday that he would appeal the court's decision.

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

In a statement, the Department for Infrastructure said it would progress work on the road as soon as possible.

"Today's decision means 18,000 road users and the local community are set to directly benefit as the new dual carriageway will reduce journey times and improve road safety," it said.

"The scheme is predicted to result in a saving of almost 600 collisions over its 60 year economic life.

"The ruling has also recognised the care and attention we take, with the statutory environmental bodies, to preserve, protect and develop environmentally sensitive areas under consideration for road development."

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