Narrow Water Bridge planning permission granted
Environment Minister Alex Attwood today announced his decision to grant planning permission for a new bridge across the Newry River at Narrow Water near Warrenpoint.
The application has been made by Louth County Council and a separate application has been submitted in the Republic of Ireland.
The multi million investment will see a single carriageway cable stayed opening bridge across the Newry River tying into the existing A2 Roundabout and linking Co Down with Co Louth. The project is seeking £17.2million in funding through the Special EU Projects Body (SEUPB.)
Emphasising the benefits of the proposed development, the Minister said:
“This will be a tremendous boost for the South Down/North Louth area. Narrow Water Bridge will be the most significant infrastructure project in the border region for many years.
“Indeed, it will be the first North South bridge since Partition. I hope that a similarly positive decision will come from planning authorities in the Republic soon in relation to the Southern end of the Narrow Water.”
“But to achieve this goal needs infrastructure – hotels, rural car parking, coastal development – a bridge in Narrow Water can very much be part of the strategy to help access to South Down and the Mournes, for trade and tourism, for visitors and families, to link up beautiful parts of our island.
Attwood insists the the bridge is an opening bridge that enables tall ships, leisure craft and other marine vessels access to the Victoria Lock and the Albert Basin in Newry.
“The bridge will act as a gateway to the Mourne and Cooley Mountains for people and tourists south of the border making it much easier for visitors travelling each way. It will be a great economic boost for the area, creating construction jobs in the short term, enhance tourism and promote greater community interaction across the border.
“As Environment Minister I want to protect the environment, and also do everything I can to create jobs and develop the economy.
He added, “This is a major application known as an Article 31 application. There are many of these in the planning system and I promised I would be decisive in resolving the majority of them in the next few months – this decision further demonstrates that.”
SDLP South Down MP Margaret Ritchie hailed the Minister’s decision to approve the planning application for the symbolic Narrow Water Bridge – the first bridge linking the north and south of this island of Ireland.
Speaking to Newry Times following today’s announcement, Ms Ritchie – a long-time campaigner for the bridge – said:
“The decision by the Minister for the Environment to approve the planning application for the Narrow Water bridge is not only welcome, but a great day for the people of South Down.
“Many people in the local community in Warrenpoint and in Cooley in County Louth who have worked on this project for years have yearned for this day to come. Today’s decision is testimony to their dedication, resilience, belief and hard work.”
Ritchie continued, “Only last week, I brought the Minister for the Environment, Alex Attwood to the site at Narrow Water Keep where he was able to see the environmental and economic advantages of the project.
I have also organised and led meetings with Enterprise Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster and Minister Leo Varadkar, the Dublin government’s Tourism Minister.”
Ritchie believes the granting of planning permission will now allow the bridge project to go forward as a very strong contender for European funding from the Special European Union Programmes Body.
“This is a wonderful decision, which marks another step in the development of this symbolic project linking the north and south of this island through a bridge infrastructure project across Carlingford Lough.
“I look forward to now pursuing the funding approval for the bridge project; the commencement of construction work and completion of what will be a momentous tourism and economic catalyst for South Down area. The Narrow Water Bridge project will capture the heritage and special landscape potential for the Mournes, and should bring more visitors to this area.”
The SDLP MLA added, “Now we all must move forward working in partnership with the community in Warrenpoint and Cooley, the Northern Ireland Executive and Irish Government, as we look forward to the completion of the bridge at Narrow Water.
“I want to thank the Minister for the Environment, Alex Attwood and his officials who have worked tirelessly on this planning application to approval stage, and for listening attentively to all the positive representations made on behalf of the project.”
Sinn Féin MLA Caitriona Ruane also welcomed the announcement.
Speaking to Newry Times, Ruane said,
“This announcement is another step forward in the creation of an infrastructural link between Counties Down and Louth and has to be welcomed. I hope that Bord Pleanála can now also grant permission so that we can access funding and begin the next stage of construction.
“I will now be liaising with Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson in order to lobby the Special EU Programmes Body to grant funding for the application. This bridge can be the catalyst for economic regeneration in the region by creating a tourism pathway between the Mournes and Carlingford region of Louth.
She added, “While this is another step forward there is still much work to be completed and I would call upon all parties on both sides of the border to maintain the pressure to see this project completed.”
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