Assembly row over Border bridge
A political row erupted at Stormont today over plans to build a new cross-border bridge.
Minister for Environment Alex Attwood took to the floor of the Assembly to refute allegations about the integrity of his approval for the Narrow Water Bridge.
The SDLP MLA said he felt compelled to take the exceptional step after questions were raised about the speed at which the application was processed.
He said: “There is no smell around this process and decision. There are only the standards of good planning, good practice and good government.”
In October, the European Union said it would give €17.4 million for the 660m, single-lane cable-bridge between Co Down and Co Louth. The bridge could be open by 2015.
Earlier this month, DUP Minister for Finance Sammy Wilson warned that the Executive could be left with a multi-million pound bill for the bridge.
Mr Attwood denied there was a spat between Government ministers over the bridge but said he had decided to speak out because accountability practices had been called into question.
Mr Attwood added: “This was a good planning decision, made in good time, on good grounds.
“This proposal attracts cross-community and cross-border support. It is a planning application that builds trade, tourism and relationships.
“It is an application that Europe wants to support, Dublin wants to support and Belfast should support.
“It is hard to fathom why a few want to impede its progress. Certainly, interrogate the evidence, if that is done on proper grounds.
“But in doing so, do not claim anything other than the planning decision was robust, thorough, evidence-based, consistent with the law, policy and good practice.”
A number of major applications, including Ikea at Belfast’s Holywood Exchange, an industrial development at Carnbane, Newry, and a shopping development at Northcott, Glengormley, were highlighted as having been dealt with quickly.