£48million wasted on A5 consultants

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Northern Ireland’s biggest ever roads project appears dead in the water – with the taxpayer left to pick up the near £60m bill.

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy confirmed on Monday he would not appeal a court ruling quashing the A5 scheme.

His decision means that tens of millions of pounds already spent on the controversial upgrade will now go to waste.

The bill includes £48m spent on consultants’ fees alone.

Last week a High Court judge quashed the decision to press ahead with the £330m dualling of the A5, which runs from Londonderry to Aughnacloy.

The scheme, the largest of its kind in Northern Ireland, formed part of a proposed key cross-border business route linking Dublin and the north west.

But it will not proceed after Mr Kennedy confirmed he wouldn’t appeal the court’s decision.

“I have considered the very complex legal and procedural matters at length upon receiving detailed legal advice,” he said. “It is my intention to accept the ruling of Mr Justice Stephens and therefore I have decided not to appeal.”

The group which brought the legal challenge, the Alternative A5 Alliance, said the project was now dead.

But speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Kennedy refused to accept it was over, adding that a “comprehensive assessment” would now be carried out into the Habitats Directive.

The failure to properly assess the impact on two salmon rivers under the directive led to the court’s decision.

“When that is completed we will consider the matter further,” Mr Kennedy said.

“I am not able to predict or make wide, sweeping statements about this or any other scheme.

“I am not in a position to predict what is going to happen.”

Mr Kennedy’s decision could mean the A5 funding is diverted to other projects almost ready to go. An upgrade of the A6 between Belfast and Derry is thought to top his agenda.