Thursday 24 February 2011

Slane bypass may risk Boyne status, says expert

CONSTRUCTION OF the proposed Slane bypass in Co Meath could have implications for the world heritage status of Brú na Bóinne, the site that is home to the megalithic tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, a planning hearing was told yesterday.

An international expert on heritage sites said construction of the bypass was likely to result in Unesco “monitoring” the impact on the world heritage site.

Dr Douglas Comer told the An Bord Pleanála hearing that “failure to maintain the outstanding universal value of a world heritage site can threaten its status as such”.

Meath County Council is seeking permission from the board to build the road and the oral hearing is expected to continue until early next month.

Dr Comer, an archaeologist and international expert on culture sites, said there could be “a very large adverse impact” on the site because of the proposed route of the road. He was asked by the council to prepare a heritage impact assessment of the road plan. He said “one might reasonably expect that the bypass will be seen as a further, incremental intrusion on the landscape”.

Dr Comer’s report said that if assurances are given that the bypass will not stimulate new construction in the vicinity of the heritage site and if it is only visible from the top of Knowth, then it would represent a minor change with a moderate/large adverse effect.

However, without such assurances and if the road can be seen from several locations in the Brú na Bóinne site, then it would have a “large/very large adverse impact”, he concluded.

The 3.5km dual carriageway would bypass Slane to the east of the village at a cost of €46 million and divert traffic from the village and Slane bridge where 22 people have died in traffic accidents in recent years.

Archaeologist Finola O’Carroll, who assessed the scheme for the council, said the new road would be visible from Knowth and Newgrange but the long-term impact of this was “in the visual and landscape assessment deemed respectively to be ‘medium and neutral’ and ‘low and neutral’.”

She said that the design of the bridge and the road seeks to minimise the visual disturbance in accordance with the principles of cultural heritage management.

Landscape architect Declan O’Leary said that to reduce the impact of the 200m long bridge, it is designed to sit within the existing topography. It will be 21m above the valley floor and made from a steel/concrete composite. Its crossing is set at a level to reduce the cutting into the valley sides, “limiting the impact on the Boyne valley”, he added.

Irish Times

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