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Northern Ireland: Highway protest legal challenge is adjourned

A court case challenging the extension to the A5 road between Londonderry and Aughnacloy has been adjourned because the barrister representing the Department for Regional Development was not available, reports the BBC.

The legal challenge is being brought by a group of local landowners, householders and farmers, who have named themselves the A5 Alliance and who oppose the extension of the A5, which was given the go-ahead last July.

The group opposes the development of the road on various grounds and has subsequently complained about the level of compensation they will receive for disruption to their land that they feel is less than farmers would receive in the UK for similar projects.

The group launched their legal action in September, claiming that the Department for Regional Development (DRD) has failed to undertake a proper environmental impact assessment prior to proposing the scheme.

A judge had previously decided to cap their court costs at £20,000 should the A5 Alliance lose their case. The DRD had argued that £50,000 would be more appropriate given that the group featured several wealthy landowners.

The court heard last week that a proper Habitats Directive assessment had not been carried out, jeopardising the entire project and prompting the judge to consider reversing the planning approval granted to the project last year.

The Habitats Directive requires the DRD to complete an impact assessment on the rivers Foyle and Finn as they are special areas of conservation.

"The risk of likely significant effects on the integrity of the special areas of conservation cannot be excluded on the basis of objective information," said Mr Justice Stephens last week.

The judge had given the DRD till today to respond; however, yesterday it became clear that the DRD barrister would be unavailable and so the case has now been adjourned until 12 April.

The DRD have accepted that if the appropriate assessments have not been carried out then the decision to go ahead with the A5 extension would most likely be quashed.

Source:

A5 road project: Court challenge is adjourned (BBC News)