The planning and implementation of the A5 upgrade project is the responsibility of the Northern Ireland authorities.
As is the case for the all such capital projects, the A5 upgrade scheme is subject to the planning assessment and approval process in Northern Ireland and since 2012 there have been a number of legal challenges to approvals related to the scheme. This has led to unavoidable delays to the implementation of the proposed scheme.
Most recently a challenge to a decision in November 2017 by the Northern Ireland Department for Infrastructure to proceed with the A5 scheme, resulted in the decision to proceed being quashed by the High Court at the request of the Department for Infrastructure 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 2019. The Department announced in August this year 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 also announced that the Planning Appeals Commission has been appointed to hold an inquiry into the A5 Environmental Statement Addendum 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 in relation to the A5 are governed by the Stormont House Agreement and Implementation Plan - A Fresh Start. Under this Agreement the Government is committed to provide funding of £75 million (sterling) 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 construction start of the scheme and an initial payment by the South.
In view of the current state of play in relation to the A5 scheme and the timeframes involved, provision was not made in 2019 and is not being made in the calendar year 2020 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 regarding the project with a view to delivering on that commitment.
In relation to the N2, as Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding in relation to the national roads programme. Under the Roads Acts 1993-2015 and in the context of delivering the Government's commitments arising out of Project Ireland 2040, the planning, design, construction and improvement of individual national roads, is a matter for TII, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.
Noting the above position, I have referred the question to TII for a direct reply. Please advise my private office if you do not receive a reply within 10 working days.