Labour Senator tells Slane bypass hearing of value for money

Sat, Feb 19, 2011, 00:00

A COST-BENEFIT analysis of the proposed Slane bypass found it represents good value for money, according to Meath Labour Senator Dominic Hannigan.

Mr Hannigan was speaking in favour of the proposed 3.5km road at the Bord Pleanála public hearing into the scheme in Drogheda yesterday.

A civil engineer with experience in transport projects, he said the bypass “comes in at three to one, so, for every €3 we spend, we get €1 back, and that’s very good.”

Mr Hannigan compared it to the cost-benefit for Metro North, which he said came in at 1.5 to 1.6 to one. “In terms of bang for your buck, in the Slane bypass you get twice that when compared to Metro North,” he added.

Environmentalist Peter Sweetman, on behalf of groups concerned with natural habitats, said the board could not make a proper decision on the basis of the information before it. He said the information was “flawed” because of what he claimed were inadequacies, including evidence in relation to bats and swans – both of which are protected species.

Maria Meagher of the Bypass Slane Campaign asked: “When will we be given the same level of protection as swans and bats? We feel we are an endangered species.”

The bypass will pass 500m from the perimeter of the buffer zone for the World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne which includes Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. At least 22 people have died in accidents at Slane bridge in living memory. Meath Fine Gael TD Shane McEntee spoke in favour of the bypass and said the bridge – which has been the scene of dozens of deaths – “was built for an ass and cart to bring the queen to see whoever is in the [Slane] castle.”

Planning inspector Michael Walsh was told by Ian Lumley, heritage officer with An Taisce, that “the real question is why Slane remains a national route”, referring to its designation along the N2, the main Dublin to Belfast road.

Mark Clinton, archaeologist for An Taisce, described the present core area of the World Heritage Site as “decidedly minimalist” and the buffer zone consequently as inadequate. “The criteria for the status of World Heritage Site have evolved over the past 20 years. The conditions are now more rigorous . . . it is of paramount importance to the Boyne Valley region, and indeed beyond, that such an invigorated selection process be anticipated and nothing done to impair qualification.”

Mr Clinton said the bypass would create as many problems as it would resolve. It was “a roads authority Trojan horse” and would become another motorway in Meath. “World Heritage Sites are decidedly thin on the ground in Ireland, let us not endanger the status of one of the only two sites we have got.”

Prof George Eoghan, an expert on Knowth who has excavated at the monument since the 1950s, said the full extent of the World Heritage Site was not yet known.

In hindsight, he added, the buffer zone “is too restrictive” and the World Heritage Site has already been impinged on by the M1 motorway. The bypass, which includes a new bridge over the river Boyne, would be a further “infringement on the landscape.”