Northern Ireland

A6 court challenge 'puts £8m on road cost' - claim

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

The delay caused by a legal challenge to a new road near a protected wetland could increase the cost by more than £8m, the Appeal Court has been told.

A Department for Infrastructure lawyer said work had to be rescheduled due to the ten-month challenge.

The environmentalist taking the case claimed costs had previously fluctuated and the point was exaggerated.

Chris Murphy is contesting a section of the route of the A6 at Toomebridge - the main Belfast to Londonderry road.

The road around Toomebridge skirts Lough Beg, an internationally recognised bird sanctuary with EU protection.

He told the court that six of the 10 months of the legal challenge had taken place during a closed season for construction, due to the presence of protected swans.

Image caption Whooper swans from Iceland pictured at Lough Beg

Mr Murphy claims the road will deny migratory whooper swans important grazing grounds.

He lost an earlier hearing which sought to prove that the correct environmental checks were not done before the £160m scheme was signed off.

He is now appealing that decision.

Image caption Chris Murphy, who is challenging plans for a dual carriageway of the A6 at Toomebridge, with his wife Doris

The case was adjourned on Tuesday after the Appeal Court decided he had not had sufficient time to prepare his case, after missing out on an email about the timetabling of the hearing.

It meant he was sent notification of the date two days before he went abroad for three weeks work.

He returned home a week ago after being unable to make alternative arrangements.

Mr Murphy, who is representing himself in the case, said there was a "voluminous" amount of material in the case.

Image caption Seamus Heaney was said to be inspired by the views near his home

Counsel for the department agreed that there was a huge amount of documentation, but said much of it was not new and Mr Murphy should be familiar with it after the earlier hearing.

But the judges decided that there "may be an element of unfairness" were the case to proceed.

They adjourned the case until August and the parties were told it would be a one-day hearing with judgement delivered on the day.

The late poet laureate Seamus Heaney, who was raised near the proposed route, had objected to the development.

He drew on the landscape for much of his poetry.

But the court case has focused primarily on the environmental impact of the new road.

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