An appeal has been lodged to a ruling that will allow the construction of a road through the environmentally sensitive and culturally significant Lough Neagh and Lough Beg Special Protected Area.
As works begins on improving the road from Belfast to Derry, a wetland of significance importance made famous by the poet Seamus Heaney is still in peril. But standing in its corner is one man who will not stand idly by and let paradise be destroyed.
Last November ornithologist and environmentalist Chris Murphy won High Court permission to challenge a planned route through the Lough Neagh and Lough Beg Special Protected Area.
Murphy was granted leave to seek a judicial review of the transport plan over an alleged breach of an EU directive in the specially protected area with the judge saying there was still uncertainty surrounding the potential disturbance to wildlife on Lough Neagh and Lough Beg.
The road was part of a €190 million stretch of the A6 Belfast to Derry which intends to provide much-needed improvements to the transport corridor connecting Belfast to Derry.
But Murphy isn’t against the construction of the road, he says he’s against the ill-advised and inconsiderate route that will cut through the area between Lough Beg and Lough Neagh, a designated Special Protect Area (SPA). This is a place made famous by the poet Seamus Heaney and is a vital feeding ground for migratory birds and especially important for the majestic whooper swan.
Murphy said “I am not anti-road as some recent comments have portrayed me, I support dualling of the A6 and smoother travel between Belfast and the North West. What I cannot support is the destruction of internationally important wetlands and an area of enormous cultural heritage”
Earlier this year Murphy went to court and presented his case that the proper environmental checks had not been done and the decision to proceed had been based on out-of-date surveys. The Department for Infrastructure argued that assessments were based on accurate and regularly-updated information and that the route did not cut through protected wetland.
After two hearings the judge ruled in favour of the Department of Infrastructure to commence construction. Work has begun on other sections of the road that have not been contested.
Murphy is determined not to give up hope and he has just lodged an appeal to this ruling. He said “This should be an area to conserve and promote, not bulldoze and destroy”.
Areas of special importance for biodiversity, for culture and for history deserve their right to be part of the future. While progress and improvements to our infrastructure is vital and necessary we must remember to defend what cannot defend itself. Once we’ve destroyed it we can never get it back. It is up to all of us to protect, appreciate and conserve our environment and our heritage.