MEATH COUNTY Council plans to carry out a balloon test this week at the site of a proposed new Slane bridge.
The test, due to take place on Thursday, will see a large balloon raised over the Boyne valley to indicate how visible the new 21m high bridge would be from the surrounding area.
Opponents of the bridge, which is part of the proposed N2 Slane bypass, claim the structure would be visible from parts of the Brú na Bóinne site, which includes the national monuments of Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth.
They say such an intrusion would put the status of the world heritage complex at risk.
The suggestion for a balloon test was made last week by world heritage expert Dr Douglas Comer when he addressed An Bord Pleanála’s public hearing on the planned 3.5km eastern bypass of Slane. The measure has also been included in recommendations made to the hearing yesterday by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
Archaeologist Mark Keegan from the department’s national monuments service said that while the proposed new bridge across the Boyne would be visible from the national monument at Knowth, and as such would have a negative impact, it would not have a significant impact upon the setting and amenity value of the monument.
Gerry Browner, senior architect at the department’s built heritage and architectural policy section, recommended that before any decision on the project was made by An Bord Pleanála a balloon test be conducted, and that the board request further information from the county council on traffic and other studies.
He said if the scheme was approved then agreement on the bridge design should be finalised with those having a direct interest in the matter.
Mr Browner also said that if the project got the go-ahead the department would pursue Meath County Council to ascertain what planning measures could be put in place to prevent follow-on development in the vicinity of the new road as this was identified by Dr Comer as a potential threat to the outstanding value of the site.