Slane Bypass Planning refused - Brú na Bóinne Heritage Sites
Planning refused - Irish Times report - 7th March 2012.
by Tim O'Brien & Éanna Ó Caollaí, The Irish Times
Residents of Slane have said they are “shattered” and “devastated” following An
Bord Pleanála's refusal to approve plans for a bypass of the Co Meath village.
Meath County Council had sought approval for a 3.5km route crossing the River
Boyne on a new bridge between the townlands of Fennor and Crewbane east of the
existing Slane bridge.
In its refusal, the board said the proposed bypass, which was to be located some
1.1km to the east of the existing N2 Boyne bridge, which is within the “viewshed”
of the of the Brú na Bóinne Unesco world heritage site, “would be acceptable
only where it has been demonstrated that no appropriate alternative is
Campaign group Save Newgrange, which opposes the bypass, has called for a heavy
goods vehicle (HGV) ban in the village, while the Slane Bridge Action Group and
the Slane Bypass Group expressed scepticism that such a ban could be enforced.
The village crossroads is a major junction of the N2, the main Dublin to Derry
road, and of the main Drogheda to Slane road, the N51.
Minister for State and local Fine Gael TD Shane McEntee said planning for an
alternative route for the bypass “that will get through the planning process a
second time” should begin immediately.
However, the National Roads Authority (NRA) said the board's decision appeared
to reject any proposed bypass of Slane and “is focused on a traffic management
solution”. The authority said this was “disappointing especially for the people
of Slane, but the NRA accepts the decision.”
The NRA was told last year to finish planning on all current road schemes and it
does not have a budget to prepare a new route. Department of Transport sources
said the decision, taken in the current economic context, effectively meant the
bypass “will not be built in the next decade, at least”.
Meath County Council said it noted the decision with disappointment, but
remained committed to finding a solution to the serious traffic and safety
issues in Slane. “We will now examine the reasons for refusal and the report of
the planning inspector and will work with the NRA to establish what further
steps can be taken to address the issues raised by the Bord,” a spokeswoman
Speaking to The Irish Times, John Ryle of the Slane Bridge Action Group said the
locals were “shattered and devastated” by the ruling. “We don't see why
aesthetics, a view, should be take precedence over people's lives,” he said.
Mr Ryle said there were already extensive traffic calming measures in Slane and
a 30km/h speed limit leading to the bridge, but nobody obeys it. “What respect
does a runaway truck have for a speed limit whether it is 30km/h or 100km/h,” he
Even if the ban worked, he said HGV traffic would simply divert through Navan or
Drogheda rather than pay tolls on the M1 and M3 motorways.
He said some 22 people had been killed in crashes on the bridge, including
two-year-old local toddler David Garvey and two people who died when their car
exploded after a collision.
In another incident, a HGV failed to negotiate the sharp turn onto the bridge.
It toppled over and slid along the parapet towards the centre of the bridge
before tumbling into the river below, killing the driver. Two days later, the
operator of the crane used to lift the wreckage from the riverbed died when the
crane toppled into the river.
Mr Ryle said he believed there would be further crashes on the existing route in
the absence of a bypass. Many more crashes went unreported because they were not
fatal incidents, he said.
Slane Bridge Action Group spokeswoman Michelle Power also expressed regret at
the decision. She said life in the village has been "overwhelmed" by the
dangerous volumes of traffic. “We now feel that as we have exhausted every
avenue open to us that we are now entirely helpless," she said. “The decades of
inaction and failure to deal decisively with this appalling situation are
nothing short of a national scandal.”
Ms Power, who survived a multiple pile-up on the bridge in 2009, said the
planned route was outside the buffer zone around the Brú na Boinne and set in a
valley. She said she believed the visual impact would have been acceptable in
light of the loss of life on the road.
Save Newgrange spokesman Vincent Salafia welcomed the decision as "a huge
victory for heritage and sustainable development in Ireland" and called for an
"immediate" ban on HGV vehicles in the village. "The Unesco World Heritage Site
is our most popular tourist attraction, which will play a key role in our
economic recovery, and it deserves the highest level of legal protection,” he
An Taisce said An Bord Pleanála had made “an eminently logical decision and
[which] has protected a very important piece of Irish National Heritage”.
Fianna Fáil Senator Thomas Byrne said this evening the decision was a "severe
bodly blow" to the people of Slane.
"Meath County Council must meet immediately in order to gain approval for this
request for a judicial review. My colleague, Cllr. Wayne Harding has already
requested this in writing to the Cathaoirleach of the County Council and we
await his reply,' he said.
Irish Times report - 24th February 2011.
by Richard McCullen, The Irish Times
There is no immediate danger posed to the Brú na Bóinne site in Co Meath by
plans to build a bypass of Slane village, according to a world heritage expert.
However, Dr Douglas Comer warned the project would be another intrusion on the
site and if there were others in the future, they could undermine its
designation as a world heritage site of outstanding universal value.
Dr Comer was replying to questions from Gerry Browner, senior architect with the
Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, on the seventh day
of an oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála into plans by Meath County Council for
The proposed 3.5km dual carriageway, including a new bridge over the Boyne east
of the village, would pass within 500 metres of a buffer zone around Brú na
Bóinne which includes the ancient burial sites of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.
Supporters of the project claim the bypass and bridge are urgently needed to
improve safety for locals in Slane, which has been the scene of at least 22
fatal road crashes.
Opponents say the new road and bridge would have a detrimental effect on the
local landscape, especially the archaeological sites. Dr Comer said some
features already intruded into the site, such as the M1 motorway and Boyne
bridge, the cement factory chimneys at Platin and the new Indaver incinerator at
He said if the bypass got the go-ahead, Unesco's world heritage committee would
likely send a fact-finding reactive monitoring mission to assess its impact on
the Brú na Bóinne site. The committee might then decide there had been no
deterioration to the site, place it on a list of endangered sites, or delist it.
Mr Browner added that the department had already received a yellow card from
Unesco over the incinerator.
Irish Times report - 23rd February 2011.
by Elaine Keogh, The Irish Times
Meath County Council has been accused of ignoring the magnitude of the findings
of an international expert who says the Slane bypass could threaten the status
of Brú na Bóinne as a Unesco world heritage site.
Dr Douglas Comer had also said the proposed road breaches the council's own
development plan, which says development must protect the amenity, views and
landscape of the monuments in the world heritage site which includes Newgrange,
Knowth and Dowth.
At the public hearing into the plans for the Slane bypass, Colm Mac Eochaidh SC,
for former attorney general John Rogers who lives near the buffer zone for the
world heritage site, asked whether they would be told if Dr Comer's report
constituted “significant further information” and as such it should be
advertised to the public.
Dr Comer said the landscape's heritage value was “as high as it gets” and the
building of a road at or near a world heritage site was “the most problematic of
all possible developments”. Of the effects of the proposed bypass, “none can be
viewed as non-significant”.
The council is seeking permission from the planning board to build a 3.5km dual
carriageway at a cost of €46 million.
It retained Dr. Comer on advice from An Bord Pleanála to assess independently the
heritage impact on the site of the proposed road. He had advised the hearing
that “almost certainly,” there would be a visit by experts from Unesco asking
about gaps in information on the proposed road.
The three likely outcomes of that process included being de-listed as a world
heritage site. He said “nowhere else in the world” had the monuments and
continuity of settlement that was found at Brú na Bóinne.
Dr Comer also said he could not find any study on the implications of simply
banning heavy goods vehicles from the village – proposed nearly two years ago –
or a study on other alternatives to building the bypass.
He added that the Boyne bridge on the M1 motorway was “without a doubt
incompatible” with the landscape that led to Brú na Bóinne being inscribed by
Irish Times report - 22nd February 2011.
by Elaine Keogh, The Irish Times
Construction of the proposed Slane bypass in Co Meath could have implications
for the world heritage status of Brú na Bóinne, the site that is home to the
megalithic tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, a planning hearing was told
An international expert on heritage sites said construction of the bypass was
likely to result in Unesco “monitoring” the impact on the world heritage site.
Dr Douglas Comer told the An Bord Pleanála hearing that “failure to maintain the
outstanding universal value of a world heritage site can threaten its status as
Meath County Council is seeking permission from the board to build the road and
the oral hearing is expected to continue until early next month.
Dr Comer, an archaeologist and international expert on culture sites, said there
could be “a very large adverse impact” on the site because of the proposed route
of the road. He was asked by the council to prepare a heritage impact assessment
of the road plan. He said “one might reasonably expect that the bypass will be
seen as a further, incremental intrusion on the landscape”.
Dr Comer's report said that if assurances are given that the bypass will not
stimulate new construction in the vicinity of the heritage site and if it is
only visible from the top of Knowth, then it would represent a minor change with
a moderate/large adverse effect.
However, without such assurances and if the road can be seen from several
locations in the Brú na Bóinne site, then it would have a “large/very large
adverse impact”, he concluded.
The 3.5km dual carriageway would bypass Slane to the east of the village at a
cost of €46 million and divert traffic from the village and Slane bridge where
22 people have died in traffic accidents in recent years.
Archaeologist Finola O'Carroll, who assessed the scheme for the council, said
the new road would be visible from Knowth and Newgrange but the long-term impact
of this was “in the visual and landscape assessment deemed respectively to be
‘medium and neutral' and ‘low and neutral'.”
She said that the design of the bridge and the road seeks to minimise the visual
disturbance in accordance with the principles of cultural heritage management.
Landscape architect Declan O'Leary said that to reduce the impact of the 200m
long bridge, it is designed to sit within the existing topography. It will be
21m above the valley floor and made from a steel/concrete composite. Its
crossing is set at a level to reduce the cutting into the valley sides,
“limiting the impact on the Boyne valley”, he added.
Meath Archaeological and Historical Society Submission to Oral Hearing.
Irish Times report - 19th February 2011.
by Elaine Keogh, The Irish Times
A cost-benefit analysis of the proposed Slane bypass found it represents good
value for money, according to Meath Labour Senator Dominic Hannigan. Mr Hannigan
was speaking in favour of the proposed 3.5km road at the Bord Pleanála public
hearing into the scheme in Drogheda yesterday.
A civil engineer with experience in transport projects, he said the bypass
“comes in at three to one, so, for every €1 we spend, we get €3 back, and that's
very good.” Mr Hannigan compared it to the cost-benefit for Metro North, which
he said came in at 1.5 to 1.6 to one. “In terms of bang for your buck, in the
Slane bypass you get twice that when compared to Metro North,” he added.
Environmentalist Peter Sweetman, on behalf of groups concerned with natural
habitats, said the board could not make a proper decision on the basis of the
information before it. He said the information was “flawed” because of what he
claimed were inadequacies, including evidence in relation to bats and swans –
both of which are protected species.
Maria Meagher of the Bypass Slane Campaign asked: “When will we be given the
same level of protection as swans and bats? We feel we are an endangered
species.” The bypass will pass 500m from the perimeter of the buffer zone for
the World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne which includes Newgrange, Knowth and
Dowth. At least 22 people have died in accidents at Slane bridge in living
memory. Meath Fine Gael TD Shane McEntee spoke in favour of the bypass and said
the bridge – which has been the scene of dozens of deaths – “was built for an
ass and cart to bring the queen to see whoever is in the [Slane] castle.”
Planning inspector Michael Walsh was told by Ian Lumley, heritage officer with
An Taisce, that “the real question is why Slane remains a national route”,
referring to its designation along the N2, the main Dublin to Belfast road.
Mark Clinton, archaeologist for An Taisce, described the present core area of
the World Heritage Site as “decidedly minimalist” and the buffer zone
consequently as inadequate. “The criteria for the status of World Heritage Site
have evolved over the past 20 years. The conditions are now more rigorous . . .
it is of paramount importance to the Boyne Valley region, and indeed beyond,
that such an invigorated selection process be anticipated and nothing done to
Mr Clinton said the bypass would create as many problems as it would resolve. It
was “a roads authority Trojan horse” and would become another motorway in Meath.
“World Heritage Sites are decidedly thin on the ground in Ireland, let us not
endanger the status of one of the only two sites we have got.”
Prof George Eogan
expert on Knowth who has excavated at the monument since the 1950s, said the
full extent of the World Heritage Site was not yet known. In hindsight, he
added, the buffer zone “is too restrictive” and the World Heritage Site has
already been impinged on by the M1 motorway. The bypass, which includes a new
bridge over the river Boyne, would be a further “infringement on the landscape.”
Irish Times report - 18th February 2011.
by Elaine Keogh, The Irish Times
The frightening experiences of parents and grandparents caught up in a
nine-vehicle pile-up after a heavy-goods vehicle (HGV) went out of control as it
headed down a hill in Slane village were dramatically recalled yesterday.
At the oral hearing into a proposed bypass of the village, planning inspector
Michael Walsh heard how Slane grandmother Anne Walsh had just dropped her
five-year-old grandson to school and was waiting in traffic on one of the steep
descents into the village when she looked in her rear-view mirror. “I saw a
large truck approaching from the top of the hill at high speed. I concluded in
that split second that the driver had lost control and that it would be
impossible to stop the truck.” She said there was “no escape” and “I closed my
eyes, gripped the steering wheel tightly and waited for the worst.”
There were loud bangs and the sound of “crunching metal on metal as my car was
heavily pounded and shunted forward.” Her car had been rear-ended by another
car, which had been hit by a truck, which had in turn been struck by the HGV.
Smashed cars, trucks and debris littered the street, which is part of the N2
road between Dublin and Derry.
No one was seriously injured or killed in the pile-up on March 23rd, 2009; most
had just dropped children to Slane national school, which is at the top of the
hill on the northern end of the village. The schoolchildren's parents'
association estimates nearly 10,000 vehicles pass the school every day, of which
1,000 are trucks. “It is almost like putting a school on the edge of the M50 and
expecting nothing to go wrong,” said spokeswoman Emma McCann.
The hearing was told by local mother Maria Meagher that when she was learning to
drive she was taught how to escape an out-of-control truck as it is the constant
danger in the village. “When our older children go out for a walk, we worry
constantly until they come home again. Other parents worry about strangers in
cars; in Slane we worry about lorries.”
Twenty-two people have died on the short stretch of road that runs from one side
of the village to the other; the last was two-year-old David Garvey, who died
when his mother's car was run over by a truck in February 2001. Michele Power of
the Bypass Slane Campaign said providing the new road “is about protecting real
lives and real people. It is a matter of life and death, something that all too
often seems to have been forgotten by both government and other authorities over
Former attorney general John Rogers began his submission against the bypass. He
lives some 400m from the megalithic tomb at Knowth and said his concern over the
route of the Slane bypass is that “it intrudes on the World Heritage Site,”
which includes Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. He said the M1 motorway is 10.8km to
the east of Slane and the M3 is 15km to the west and “let us consider if Slane
has already been bypassed?” Mr Rogers said: “I know it is to take your life in
your hands to cross the Slane bridge.”
Irish Times report - 16th February 2011.
by Elaine Keogh, The Irish Times
Constant heavy traffic on Slane bridge appears to have been why it partially
collapsed last month, an oral hearing by An Bord Pleanála into a proposed bypass
of Slane village heard yesterday. At the time, Meath County Council said the
collapse of a stone wall on the western facade of the bridge was due to icy
However, yesterday Seamus Mac Gearailt of Roughan O'Donovan engineers, which
oversaw the selection of the bypass route on behalf of the council, said “it
appears to have been due to heavy traffic loading over years”. The council is
seeking permission from the planning board to build a 3.5km dual-carriageway at
a cost of €46 million to the east of the village. The route will take it some
500m from the buffer zone to Brú na Bóinne, a Unesco world heritage site that
includes Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.
Mr Mac Gearailt also told the hearing, chaired by planning inspector Michael
Walsh, that it was not just Slane bridge that posed risks to traffic but all of
the road layout through the village. The N2 has steep hills on both approaches
to Slane bridge and it also intersects with the main Drogheda to Navan road in
the middle of the village.
Mr Mac Gearailt said Slane had the “longest and most severe descent on any
national primary route”. As a result, “vehicles have considerable difficulty in
braking safely – overheating can lead to brake failure at a critical point”, he
told the hearing. Between 1996 and last year there were 40 incidents in Slane,
of which 35 per cent involved trucks.
The steep gradient is the key factor, the hearing heard. At the moment, some
17,700 vehicles pass through the village each day; after the bypass, the number
of vehicles will drop by a third. The number crossing Slane bridge daily will
reduce by 7,700.
Mr Walsh said it was not proposed to build a bypass to the west of Slane,
although it had been desirable to “tease out” what a route to the west would
look like and this took place last year. At the start of the hearing it was put
to Mr Walsh that the environmental impact statement submitted by the council
could be deficient and inadequate. Mr Walsh said the board “has not decided yet
whether it is adequate or not. I haven't either”.
He was speaking after Colm Mac hEochaidh SC, for former attorney general John
Rogers, who lives in the area, said the recommendation by the board to the
council to retain an expert on the impact of the scheme on Brú na Bóinne,
including Newgrange, implied that the environmental impact statement submitted
needed “a fix”.
He said it appeared the statement could be deficient “in that it does not
address the impact on the world heritage site”, and if that were the situation
then An Bord Pleanála had no jurisdiction to hold the oral hearing. He put it to
Mr Walsh that the first thing the board must do is decide on whether it had a
lawful environmental impact statement.
The hearing also heard that the flight paths of bats in the Boyne valley were
taken into consideration in selecting the height of the bridge that would carry
the road across the Boyne. It was decided that a three-span, steel-concrete
composite 200m bridge that was 21m above the valley floor would be the preferred
design. Mr Mac Gearailt said the bridge design “respects its surroundings” and
“we recognise it is an intrusion but leaves no stone unturned in trying to blend
into its environment”.
Irish Times report - 22nd November 2010.
by Elaine Keogh, The Irish Times
The oral hearing into the Slane bypass will be “even-handed” when considering
whether an eastern or western route around the village is preferable, according
to An Bord Pleanála. Confirming that the hearing into the proposed road will
take place, probably next February, a spokesman said: “It will be an open and
even-handed assessment on both proposed options.”
There are more than 100 objectors to the bypass. The hearing is expected to hear
strong arguments from opponents to the eastern route which runs close to the
buffer zone of the Brú na Bóinne Unseco world heritage site that includes
Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.
The western route, which would dissect the Slane Castle estate and affect its
famous concert arena, was rejected by the council in its environmental impact
statement. However, in reply in the planning board, the council supplied
additional information on this option. Slane is on the N2 and on a crossroads on
the banks of the Boyne river and is approached by steep hills. The bypass would
remove some of the 7,000 vehicles a day that pass through the village.
Meanwhile, members of the Bypass Slane group say they are “very disappointed”
the village was not included as one of the locations being targeted in the new
crackdown on speeding using mobile speed cameras. The last fatality was in 2001.
It is almost two years since there was a multi-vehicle pile-up there involving a
number of local women who were dropping their children to school. The women
helped to establish the Bypass Slane campaign.
Spokeswoman Michele Power said: “The only thing we have to protect us from
another accident is the 30km/h speed limit introduced after the pile up.” The
group said the limit was only complied with by local residents and that last
Friday morning, it seemed that practically every vehicle entering the village
was breaking it; speeds of up to 60km/h were being recorded on a flashing speed
signpost outside the primary school.
“Why do we have to go and fight again for something we should already have?” Ms
Power asked. The Garda Press Office said the locations identified for speed
cameras were chosen according to a number of criteria, including the number of
injuries and fatalities on the road in question and whether people were keeping
to the limits.
Irish Times report - 2nd July 2010.
by Elaine Keogh, The Irish Times
An Bord Pleanála is considering changing the route of a Slane bypass so it will
run west of the village but this will bring it just 500m from Slane Castle and
its famous concert site. Meath County Council has applied for planning
permission for a 3.5km route to the east of the village which is on the N2 and
has been the scene of multiple fatal accidents.
The planning board confirmed it has received 110 submissions on the proposed
eastern route and has now asked the council to give it more information on a
possible route to the west. A spokesman said: “The board wants to satisfy itself
that the alternatives were discounted; it is exploring all options and ensuring
other alternatives were explored.” The route put forward by the council includes
a new 19m high bridge 1km east of Slane but the dual-carriageway would pass some
500m from the buffer zone of Brú na Bóinne, the world heritage site that is home
to Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.
The provisional path of the western route would involve demolishing some local
businesses and has met with strong opposition from the landowners involved,
including the Conyngham family who own Slane Castle. “If they think I am a
pushover they have another thing coming,” said Sir Henry Mountcharles, who spent
10 years restoring Slane Castle after it was gutted by fire in 1991.
Paddy Macken's family have been living at Harlinstown for over 70 years and have
three family businesses there, including Slane Farm cottages and hostel. “This
route would wipe out a lifetime's work by my parents, me and my children. The
route would go through the yard and house and takes the lot out,” he said
yesterday. “It is just not a viable option; it looks to be three times longer
and the terrain is totally unsuitable and impractical. “It doesn't make sense
and is squandering money,” Mr Mcken said.
An Bord Pleanála says the planning process is “in its infancy”, and no decision
had been made on whether to hold an oral hearing into the proposed route.
However, locals believe the date for a hearing is imminent, and fear a new route
will delay the building of the bypass and risk more crashes. Slane councillor
Wayne Harding (FF) said: “The best route has been picked; it has taken more than
10 years to get to this stage; the people of Slane have waited long enough.”
According to Sir Henry serious questions have to be answered about “a planning
process that can take us back to stage one again and delay the building of the
road. Meath County Council discounted this route years ago based on its
feasibility study. To propose this now is nothing short of lunacy.”
Meath County Council said: “An Bord Pleanála has requested further information
on the Slane bypass scheme and one of the questions relates to details of the
examination of an alternative route to the west of the village. A response is
being prepared to that letter.”
Irish Times report - 22nd January 2010.
by Elaine Keogh, The Irish Times
The National Roads Authority has confirmed that the proposed route of the bypass
of Slane village will pass some 500 metres “from the perimeter” of the buffer
zone of the Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The road, which will be a dual carriageway, will have “the least impact” taking
all factors into consideration, including the archaeology and heritage of the
area, a spokesman said.
It will be 3.5 kilometres long and run to the east of the village, which is on
the heavily used N2 linking Dublin with Derry and it has been the scene of at
least 22 fatal traffic crashes in living memory.
Included in the scheme is a new bridge over the river Boyne which will be about
200 metres long.
The environmental impact statement has been published and submissions on it are
being accepted by An Bord Pleanála, which will decide whether to grant permission.
Bypass Slane Campaign group spokeswoman Michelle Power said, “we welcome the
plans and look forward to the day permission is granted and funds are allocated
for its construction. After numerous fatal accidents human life must take precedence”.
Brian Taylor, spokesman for An Taisce in Meath and a resident of Slane said:
“I'd be very reluctant about anything that might hold up that road. It has been
several years in the offing and it has gone through numerous public
presentations and the route chosen appears to be the least offensive [one].”
A spokesman for the NRA said, “we have selected a route with the least impact.
It is 1.5 kilometres from the core of the Brú na Bóinne and around that centre
core is a buffer zone; this route is 500 metres from the perimeter of that
However, the statement does say that also within 500 metres of the route are 44
archaeological and cultural sites. The next stage is for An Bord Pleanála to
decide whether to hold an oral hearing into any objections or submissions on the
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