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 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 2019 that based on the responses to the consultation the Department had concluded that a further public inquiry was required.
The Planning Appeals Commission was appointed to hold the inquiry and the hearings concluded on 13 March 2020. It is understood that the Department for Infrastructure is awaiting the Inspector’s report, which is scheduled for completion in September 2020.
The funding arrangements in relation to the A5 have been 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. The Government's commitment to provide funding of £75 million (sterling) up to 2022 is also now included in the "New Decade, New Approach" document.
Allowing for the time required for the completion of the Public Inquiry process and for all new decisions relating to the project to be taken together with the possibility of a further legal challenge, the timeframe for the start of construction of Phase 1a of the A5 project is still uncertain. 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 by this Department.
As regards discussions with members of the Northern Ireland Executive, the North South Ministerial Council was not able to meet for some time before the Northern Ireland Executive was restored in January this year. However, liaison continued, including meetings of the Senior Officials Group comprising Northern and Southern officials established to oversee implementation of the Fresh Start Agreement.