Oral hearing could be flawed, says former AG

Story by Tom Kelly

Wednesday, 9th February, 2011 4:55pm

Oral hearing could be flawed, says former AG

John Rogers... addressed preliminary hearing.

Former Attorney General John Rogers has claimed that a proposed public hearing into the planned N2 Slane bypass would be flawed unless an expert report on the impact of the scheme on the nearby Brú na Bóinne site is published before the hearing.

The route of the new road is just over 500m from the UNESCO World Heritage Site which includes Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

Mr Rogers, who lives in the area, was addressing a preliminary hearing by an Bord Pleanála in Drogheda last week prior to the opening of the public hearing into the project on Tuesday 15th February.

The preliminary hearing was convened to draw up a draft schedule for the public hearings which are expected to last at least two weeks, said Michael Walsh, an inspector with An Bord Pleanála.

Mr Rogers also said it appeared that the report by Dr Douglas Comer, an international world heritage expert, had been commissioned to fill in a deficit in the environmental impact statement (EIS) prepared for the project.

Dermot Flanagan, senior counsel for Meath County Council, said that while Bord Pleanala had recommended the council get a report from Dr Comer, there was “no suggestion of any want in the EIS”.

Dr Comer will be making a presentation to the public hearing and Mr Flanagan added that the council intended to make available in advance a précis of what he intended to say to the hearing. The council will set out its proposals for the new road and bridge in three modules.

The first module will deal with the need for the bypass, general environmental issues and planning for the project. The second module will focus on the impact of the project on Brú na Bóinne, as well as the visual impact of the new bridge, while the third module will deal with issues arising from compulsory purchase orders for land and other property.

Meanwhile, Gerry Browner, a senior engineer with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, said the Department had kept UNESCO, which has designated Brú na Bóinne as a World Heritage Site, “in the loop” on the project.

However, environmentalist Peter Sweetman, who said he was representing a number of interested parties “including the swans and the snails”, claimed the project should not proceed until all his legal challenges to the Galway City Outer Bypass had been fully exhausted, both in the Irish courts and the European Court, as there were issues common to both the Galway and Slane projects.

The preliminary hearing was told that negotiations between the county council and a number of landowners affected by the project were continuing and it was expected that many of these would be resolved before the hearing proper.

A large number of local community groups who support the bypass, including the Slane Bridge Action Group, confirmed that they would be making submissions to the public hearing. The action group was set up to campaign for a bypass following a series of fatal accidents in the vicinity of Slane Bridge.

Spokesperson John Ryle told Mr Walsh that those wishing to address the formal hearing included residents, survivors of accidents at the bridge, traders, school and parish groups, Slane Tidy Towns committee, Slane Community Forum, Slane GFC and the Ledwidge Museum Committee.

John Clancy from the Meath Archaeological and Historical Society said he would be cross-examining council officials on issues relating to traffic and traffic counts.

Archaeologist Daniel Moore also requested time to make a presentation to the forthcoming hearing.

Planning inspector Mr Walsh concluded by saying that a draft schedule for the public hearing would be circulated prior to the hearing next week.

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