Narrow Water Bridge Project Back On Track.
The Narrow Water Bridge development has been the source of debate for a number of years in the South Down area from 2012 when planning permission was granted, and when funding was secured from the European Union and governments on both sides of the border writes Kevin McAteer.
But the project was shelved the following year after it emerged costs had been significantly underestimated.
Louth County Council said the €18m originally budgeted for was at least €12m short of what was required.
However, it seems as a result of the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal the project is back on track. A Department of Infrastructure spokesperson said”: “The Minister is keen to progress this project which is included in the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ agreement and it would deliver against a number of her priorities, including addressing regional imbalance and connecting communities.
“The Minister will be raising this project at the next North-South Ministerial Council and looks forward to engaging with her counterpart in the South to discuss how best to unlock the tourism potential in the Newry/Carlingford area.”
This is seen by many as an ambitious plan that could be a wonderful investment for the South Down /Louth border area, however, Minister Nicola Mallon has indicated that she is keen to liaise with local community groups and Councils North and South of the border.
A Department spokesperson added: “The Minister recognises the local support for a bridge at Narrow Water to link the communities on both sides of the Lough and maximise the tourism potential of this cross-border region whilst protecting the natural environment in this area of historic and ecological significance.
“Officials have engaged regularly with local community groups in considering the benefits a bridge could deliver and possible options going forward. The Minister plans to meet with the local community to listen to their views and discuss issues relating to a bridge at Narrow Water.
“The Minister is keen to listen to the views of stakeholders. Working with the Department for Transport, Tourism and Sport, her Department has previously engaged with council representatives from both council areas and it will be important that both Councils are involved in discussions as the project unfolds.”
With the current issue of the coronavirus pandemic resulting in a potentially devastating economic impact across Northern Ireland, the Minister has stated she is keen for such a vast project to bring a positive economic outcome to the Newry and South Down areas.
The DfI spokesperson added: “Previous studies have demonstrated potential economic benefits, for example, arising from construction, and reduced travel time and tourism benefits. In the ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal, the UK Government is committed to providing additional financial support for infrastructure delivery to enable the Executive to invest in a range of potential capital projects such as Narrow Water Bridge.
“Minister Mallon has already engaged in discussions to seek reassurance as to the priority of investment in our critical infrastructure, which will be important in terms of all-island connectivity and economic growth.
“The Irish Government also stated its readiness to progress jointly on the consideration of options for the development of the Narrow Water Bridge project at the next North-South Ministerial Council.
“An updated business case is being prepared for the Minister’s consideration to assess the social and economic benefits from a bridge. The Minister will be engaging with her Ministerial counterpart in the South and with the Irish government to discuss how best to unlock the economic and tourism potential in the Newry/Carlingford area.”
This is a vast dynamic project that could unlock the potential of Newry Mourne and Down District Council area. With uncertain times ahead following the covid-19 outbreak, it is refreshing to see that Infrastructure Minister Nicola Mallon is determined to deliver on the Narrow Water Bridge project.