Attempts to bridge gap in Narrow Water project

April 22, 2013

A high level cross-border meeting about the proposed Narrow Water Bridge took place in the Carrickdale Hotel, Carrickarnon on Friday evening.  The meeting was convened to address recent concerns raised regarding perceived delays from the Stormont Executive over lack of progress on the issue.

Politicians from both jurisdictions attended to hear suggestions as to how to move the building of the bridge – that will link Omeath and Warrenpoint – forward.

Meanwhile Louth County Council, the lead agency in the building project, confirmed it has sent the tender documents – which outline detailed requirements for the Narrow Water bridge – to five firms who have expressed an interest in constructing the bridge.

The move is a positive response to apparent delays in the Executive in granting an important bridge order that would allow Louth County Council to work on the Northern part of the bridge building.

Stormont finance minister Sammy Wilson has previously been accused of ‘dragging his feet’ on approving the last element of funding needed for the work to start. It recently came to light that Mr Wilson has refused to meet politicians from Newry and Mourne Council, saying it was not appropriate to do so. His DUP colleague on Newry and Mourne Council, Willie Burns, said the money could be spent ‘in better ways’.

In addition, Newry-based MLA and Regional Development minister, Danny Kennedy, said his department was working to get the bridge order process completed, but admitted that this could be a number of weeks away.

In a statement, Louth County Council said: “The council had hoped to be in a position to award the contract for Narrow Water bridge on May 10. Unfortunately the bridge order will not be in place until mid-June at the earliest, and a contract cannot be awarded until the bridge order and the ‘letter of offer’ for funding have been received.  Therefore the time frame has slipped by at least five to six weeks which is eating into the construction period for the bridge. Any further delays in receiving the necessary consents increases the risk that the project cannot be completed within the timeframe set down by the funding body of June 2015.”

Regional Development Minister, Danny Kennedy confirmed processing of draft Orders are at an advanced stage.

“My Department proposes to publish the draft Orders in weeks beginning 22 April and 29 April. Following publication, there will be a statutory consultation period of at least 30 days and, subject to any objections received, there is a possibility of a public inquiry.

“Draft Orders had been prepared previously but these were redrafted, to take account of late changes to the vessel protection system being provided in association with this bridge and the Operating Procedures which were agreed with Louth County Council. There is a significant amount of work required to ensure that the documents, including the drawings referred to in the draft Orders meet the requirements of the legislation,” he explained.

“Roads Service understands these changes largely arose from recent discussions which Louth County Council and Newry and Mourne District Council representatives had with the shellfish fishermen, who currently operate upstream of the proposed bridge site.”