Yes, I have heard those comments. I can assure the committee there is no desire on the part of the National Roads Authority - or of local authorities who have been coupled with us in this - to be arrogant. We have a task assigned to us by Government and we are seeking to deliver on that, in combination with our local authority colleagues. The extent to which we involve the public, by way of consultation, in our projects is far, far greater than ever in the past. Possibly part of our difficulty is that people are more aware of what we are doing. It may also reflect the fact that the scale of our operations is now much greater, with so many schemes in progress. Not very long ago, the NRA or our predecessors in the Department of the Environment might have two or three sizeable schemes in planning. We now have a multiplicity of major projects on hands and, naturally, greater numbers of people are being affected, with consequently greater interest in our activities and how we are progressing them.
One particular phase of public consultation attracts special attention. Acting in consort with us, the local authority concerned displays a map showing, for any segment of road, a number of route options. That results in a considerable number of people becoming exercised on the basis that their house or farm may be affected. In the final analysis only one route will be selected but, in the meantime, during that particular phase of the process, many more than the numbers who will be eventually affected are suddenly concerned and worried about the possible impact on their property. Due to EU requirements to look at alternate routes, we no longer have the option of following the system which might have applied ten or 15 years ago, whereby the local authority and the predecessors of NRA would get together quietly, decide exactly where the road should go, make a CPO and only then would the public hear anything about it. I am sure nobody would suggest we should revert to that situation. There are downsides to the system we are using now, which involves leaving people "on hazard" - and a far greater number thinking they are on hazard - than will eventually be affected by the scheme. Despite that downside, I believe this broader level of public consultation is worthwhile. It is possible that the comment which has been referred to was made in the context of a rush of blood to the head.
As we all know, there are negotiations between the Department of the Environment and Local Government and the IFA in relation to the compensatory aspects of compulsory purchase procedures. That being the case, there is a slight conflict situation. The negotiations have been going on for some time and there is some more ground to be covered before we reach an agreement on terms acceptable to all sides. I would not wish the view to go abroad that the NRA or local authorities who take these projects on a day-to-day basis are in any way setting out to be arrogant. We are not. We are most anxious to be as helpful as we can to everybody who is affected by our projects and to give them the greatest possible information and opportunity to make their views known. At the end of the day, we are also anxious to make progress with that programme and to deliver on it. That is what is expected of us.