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Balloon tests this weekend to help determine bridge height

Story by Tom Kelly

Wednesday, 9th March, 2011 4:47pm

Balloon tests this weekend to help determine bridge height

An aerial view of the problematic Slane Bridge and, below, the proposed route of the bypass, to the east of the village.

Balloon tests being held in conjunction with the planning board's consideration of Meath County Council's application for a new bypass of Slane are to take place this week, weather permitting.

The tests will be held at the site of a proposed new bridge over the Boyne, which is included in the planned 3.5km dual carriageway bypassing the village to the east.

The council will conduct the tests this Friday and Saturday to evaluate the visual impact of the proposed new bridge on the surrounding landscape, including Brú na Bóinne.

Two blimp-type balloons will be positioned on each bank of the Boyne at Fennor, the site of the proposed bridge approximately one mile east of the existing Slane bridge. The balloons will be set at two possible bridge heights - 18 metres and 12 metres above ground level.

The test for the preferred 18m option will take place between 10am and 1.30pm each day when the balloons will have red banners attached, while the test for the 12m option will take place between 2pm and 5pm each day when the balloons will support blue banners.

Each balloon is approximately 6.1m in length and 3.7m in height while the banners are 3.7m in length and 1.2m in height.

Supporters and critics of the proposed bridge who have been taking part in An Bord Pleanála's oral hearing into the project will have an opportunity to view the balloons from the national monument at Knowth between 12 noon and 3pm each day. They will then have an opportunity to give their reaction to the tests when the hearing resumes at the end of the month.

Before the hearing in the Boyne Valley Hotel Drogheda adjourned last Friday, it heard a succession of submissions for and against the project, as well as cross-examination of council and other experts.

Meanwhile, Slane Community Forum has dismissed the concerns of world heritage expert, Dr Douglas Comer, that the proposed N2 Slane bypass could undermine the future of Brú na Bóinne.

Dr Comer, who was retained by Meath County Council to assess the impact of the road scheme on the heritage of the area, suggested that the road could pave the way for follow-on development while the proposed new bridge would be visible from within the historic sites.

Dr Comer also questioned if all alternative means of removing traffic from Slane, such as a HGV ban, had been fully explored.

A response to Dr Comer's assessment was prepared by architect Philip Geoghegan and delivered to the oral hearing by community forum chairman, Ciaran Baxter.

Mr Baxter said that Slane needs to share in the natural growth of the county to improve its sustainability as a village community, and while there would be some development, this would be to the west of the bypass which would act as "a determinant of the limits of development".

He said that Dr Comer's implication that Brú na Bóinne might be in danger of losing its status as a World Heritage Site due to the new bypass was not well-founded. He claimed this was unlikely to happen provided that appropriate conditions were attached to the planning permission.

"It is most unlikely that the World Heritage Committee (which confers World Heritage Status) would take action on this issue provided the interests of the committee were integrated within the constraints which might accompany the construction of the bypass," said Mr Baxter.

He said the community forum expects Ab Bord Pleanála to grant planning approval for the bypass by making "a sound value judgement where the essential protection of the monument is achieved whilst valuing the lives and environmental rights of the community in the surrounding area and in particular the village community of Slane".

The hearing has now adjourned until 29th March.

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