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 Unesco.