SOUTH Down has been given a majot boost with the news that funding for the Narrow Water Bridge has finally been given the green light by Sammy Wilson, NI Finance Minister.
Speaking following his approval of the Narrow Water Bridge funding package, NI Finance Minister Sammy Wilson said: “Funding of £14million has now been given approval subject to clarification on technical conditions applicable to the Letter of Offer.
“As with any project offer, the Letter of Offer for the Narrow Water Bridge Project will include a number of important conditions. One such condition is a commitment by Louth County Council that they will have sole responsibility for any cost overruns associated within the eligible spend timeframe and in the event that the project would extend outside this period.
“Louth County Council shall also meet all the maintenance and associated costs related to the upkeep of the bridge and its service area.”
The Minister added: “This project aims to build a bridge linking the counties of Down and Louth across Carlingford Lough and also the Newry to Warrenpoint Road with the Omeath to Newry Road. The Letter of Offer will also stipulate that Newry and Mourne District Council will meet all operational costs and associated actions of the bridge including costs incurred with its opening and closing.
“This project will also be subject to the approval of a Bridge Order being in place and I know that the Department for Regional Development has already published the Narrow Water Bridge Order for consultation on 22 April with a period of objections open until 4 June. After that date, any objections received will be considered by DRD Minister Danny Kennedy and he will decide if a public inquiry is required.”
“The project will be subject to ongoing review by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) to ensure that it remains within the timeframe laid down by the INTERREG Programme. “My Department will work closely with SEUPB to ensure that the Letter of Offer is issued promptly to the project,” said Ms Ritchie.
Ritchie Welcomes Funding For Narrow Water Bridge
SDLP MP for South Down Margaret Ritchie has welcomed confirmation of residual funding from the Department of Finance and Personnel for the construction of the Narrow Water Bridge.
Ms Ritchie said: “Further to my meeting with the Minister for Finance and Personnel today, I am delighted to confirm that residual funding has been secured to allow the construction of the Narrow Water Bridge.
“The Narrow Water Bridge project is one of the most important North South projects to be brought forward. It will enable, not only many jobs to be provided in construction, but also will be a vital gateway to the Mournes on completion. It will be an important catalyst for economic investment and tourism not only in South Down and the Cooley Peninsula but throughout the island of Ireland.
“The project is a shining example of how far we have come as a community and in our North South relations. It also symbolises the future of our economy, which is in our tourism product, and this is now something, thanks to the peace process that we can export worldwide.
“I have been making robust representations to secure funding for this project for considerable time and have met previously with all other funders including the Taoiseach, the Secretary of State and the Good Friday Agreement Committee in Dublin.
“Having met with the Minister for Finance today, I understand he formally made a statement to the Assembly on the North South Ministerial Council Meeting in Special EU Programmes Sectoral Format. Today is a very positive day for the Narrow Water Bridge project, the people of Warrenpoint, Kilkeel and the Mournes.
“I would like to thank everybody who has worked so hard to bring the project to this now very advanced stage.”
Ruane Says Bridge Funding Will Transform the Region
Sinn Féin South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane has welcomed the announcement by Finance Minister Sammy Wilson that money is to be released for the Narrow Water Bridge.
Ms. Ruane said: “This announcement today will undoubtedly have the potential to transform the economic prospects of the entire region.
“The bridge, which can now move to the next stage of construction as soon as Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy releases the Bridge order. I call on Danny Kennedy to do this as soon as possible so that we help revitalise the construction sector, which is suffering from the recession.
“The bridge will open up the entire South Down and North Louth region for inward investment and cut travel times in commuting to and from the area. It will also open the area up to tourism and create a gateway to the Mournes and Carlingford Lough.
“I would like to thank everyone who has campaigned for this bridge including the Kilkeel, Warrenpoint Chamber of Commerce, Louth Council and Newry and Mourne Council which highlighted that working together we can achieve for the entire community which we serve,” added Ms Ruane.