Ex-attorney general among objectors to Slane bypass near prehistoric sites

Wed, Feb 17, 2010, 00:00

FORMER ATTORNEY general John Rogers SC, who lives in the Boyne valley, will be among the objectors to plans by Meath County Council and the National Roads Authority (NRA) to build a bypass of Slane 500 metres from the Brú na Bóinne archaeological complex.

Today is the last day for making submissions to An Bord Pleanála, which will adjudicate on the scheme under the 2006 Strategic Infrastructure Act.

Depending on the number of objections, the board may decide to hold an oral hearing.

The proposed route, running east of Slane, is being opposed by the newly formed Save Newgrange campaign, led by Vincent Salafia, who was prominent in the protracted struggle against the M3 motorway because of its proximity to the Hill of Tara.

Yesterday, Mr Salafia called on An Bord Pleanála to extend the deadline, arguing that the public notice was inadequate, that more time was needed by the public and that access to information on the project had been “unreasonably curtailed”.

He said Save Newgrange had lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission, alleging the public consultation process was “flawed” and calling on the commission to intervene so the deadline could be extended for 90 days.

The planned new section of the N2 is 3.5km long and would cross the river Boyne on a new bridge at a location 1.1km to the east of the existing Slane Bridge, which has been the scene of several traffic incidents involving heavy goods vehicles (HGVs).

The frequency and severity of these incidents have been reduced since 2002, when the county council introduced extra traffic signals and an overhead gantry on the steeper southbound approach to the bridge, to control HGVs.

It is estimated that some 1,600 HGVs pass through the centre of Slane village every day. The volume of such traffic on the N2 led local residents to campaign for a ban on HGVs in Slane, and this was adopted by the county council in April 2009.

The resolution was not implemented because of fears that it “could have serious consequences for Meath County Council in terms of possible legal exposure, delivery delays and business frustration”, according to director of services Eugene Cummins.

The environmental impact statement (EIS) on the bypass proposal says it would remove through-traffic from the existing N2 through Slane, improving the village’s environment as well as giving an “improved level of service” on the route.

However, it concedes that the new stretch of the N2 route would be “just over 500 metres from the Unesco World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne, comprising the three main prehistoric sites [of] Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth”, on the north bank of the Boyne.

“The assessment identified 44 archaeological and cultural heritage constraints within 500m of the route. Of these, five will be impacted directly, two will be impacted indirectly and 34 will have no predicted impact,” according to the EIS.

For the 10 sites that would be affected, the potential impact is rated as “potentially significant” for three, “moderate” for two, “slight” for another two and “no predicted impact” for one.

The remaining two are “areas of undetermined archaeological potential”.