I thank the Deputy for his question. This is a project in which he is particularly interested and he has raised it on numerous occasions. I will try to update him on what is a moving target but one that is not moving fast enough.
The planning and implementation of the A5 upgrade project is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland authorities.
As is the case for all such capital projects, the A5 upgrade scheme is subject to the planning assessment and approval process in Northern Ireland. Since 2012 there have been a number of legal challenges to approvals related to the scheme and this has led to unavoidable delays in the implementation of the proposed scheme.
A challenge in November 2017 to the decision of the Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure to proceed with the A5 scheme resulted in that decision being quashed by the High Court at the request of the Department in November 2018.
Following the conclusion of that legal action, the Department for Infrastructure updated project environmental assessments and undertook a public consultation on a number of environmental reports, including an environmental statement addendum in 2019. The Department announced in August that over 260 responses to the consultation had been received and that following on from consideration of the number and nature of the issues raised, the Department had concluded that a further public inquiry is required.
Earlier this month, the Department for Infrastructure announced that the planning appeals commission has been appointed to hold an inquiry into the A5 environmental statement addendum of 2019 and related environmental issues, along with the four updated draft reports, to inform an appropriate assessment under the habitats regulations prepared by the Department. It is understood that the inquiry will be held in February 2020.
The current funding arrangements relating to the A5 are governed by the Stormont House Agreement and implementation plan, A Fresh Start. Under this agreement, the Government is committed to providing funding of £75 million towards the cost of phase 1a of the A5 upgrade scheme once the statutory planning process in Northern Ireland is concluded.
Allowing for the time required for the conclusion of the public inquiry and for a new decision to be taken on whether to proceed with the scheme, together with the possibility of a further legal challenge, the timeframe for the start of construction of phase 1a of the A5 project is uncertain.
In addition, it is envisaged that, as was the case for previous contributions, payments from the South will be based on an agreed protocol linked to the achievement of construction stage milestones. This means that there would be a time lag between the start of construction of the scheme and an initial payment by the South.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
In view of the current state of play regarding the A5 scheme and the timeframes involved, provision is not being made in the 2020 calendar year for funding for the scheme. The Government remains committed to the £75 million sterling contribution and the senior officials group established on foot of the Fresh Start agreement will continue to liaise in respect of the project with a view to delivering on that commitment.