Controversy over Slane bypass proposal
Madam, – In struggling to defend the preferred route for the N2 Slane Bypass, which runs 500m from the edge of the Bend of the Boyne Unesco World Heritage Site, a spokesman for the National Roads Authority (NRA) said, “we have selected a route with the least impact” (Home News, January 22nd). This is not true and there is no doubt that a western bypass would have a much lesser impact, as the proposed dual carriageway will sever the World Heritage Site from the village of Slane, and box it in between the M2 motorway and a dual carriageway.
As your reporter Elaine Keogh noted, the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project acknowledges “44 archaeological and cultural sites” will be within 500m of the roadway. The potential to uncover much more during work is high. In addition, the EIS identified 21 architectural heritage sites within the study area, including the Ledwidge Cottage, birth-place of Ireland’s most famous first World War poet, Francis Ledwidge. The 19th-century farm labourer’s cottage is now a museum dedicated to him. The EIS also states, “The wider landscape is judged as being of very high value and the River Boyne valley is deemed as being of ‘exceptional’ value.”
According to the Unesco website, “The Archaeological Ensemble of the Bend of the Boyne” is “Europe’s largest and most important concentration of prehistoric megalithic art. The monuments there had social, economic, religious and funerary functions. The committee inscribed the site under criteria (i), (iii) and (iv) and invited the Irish authorities to control carefully future developments in and around the site and to involve Icomos (International Council on Monuments and Sites) in conservation and management planning.”
Criterion (i) is “to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius”; (iii) is “to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation which is living or which has disappeared”; and (iv) is “to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates [a] significant stage(s) in human history.” There is little doubt that the 44 known archaeological sites, and the numerous others yet to be discovered within the 3.5km stretch, are related to the archaeological ensemble.
This makes the site a perfect candidate for the Unesco List of World Heritage in Danger, which is designed “to inform the international community of conditions which threaten the very characteristics for which a property was inscribed on the World Heritage List, and to encourage corrective action.” Although the Irish authorities claim they have written to Unesco, they have not publicly reported a response prior to picking the preferred route, and the clock is now ticking for making objections.
Meath County Council has already issued notices for compulsory purchase of land, despite the fact that planning permission is far from being granted, and public consultation continues.
Dr Edgar Morgenrath, associate research professor and co-ordinator of the Transport and Infrastructure Research Programme at the Economic and Social Research Institute noted: “It is remarkable that there are plans to facilitate the avoidance of the toll on the M1 by building a bypass around Slane involving the expensive construction of a bridge over the river Boyne when a simple HGV ban would solve the local traffic problems” (Opinion, April 24th, 2009). Meath councillors voted in 2009 “to ban HGVs going through Slane because of the dangerous and steep incline from the bridge on the N2 into the village.” (Home News, July 16th, 2009).
The county manager has failed implement the ban, which would have been the solution with the “least impact”. The next best option would have been a western bypass, but instead the NRA has chosen the route with the most impact. – Yours, etc,