AN BORD Pleanala is to decide within weeks if the discovery of a national monument on the path of the controversial M3 motorway should compel planners to seek fresh approval for the route.
The National Roads Authority have asked the planning appeals board to decide if the excavations of the Lismullin national monument are a "material change" to the approved scheme and if a new planning application is required.
If the board rule that the road scheme is now different to the one approved in September 2003, it could require a fresh planning application to be lodged, which would lead to huge delays in delivering the motorway.
The Lismullin ritual site was discovered earlier this year but former Environment Minister Dick Roche directed that it be preserved "by record" - which means excavation before it is removed from the road's path.
The National Monuments Act requires the road authority to submit these new directions to the board, which is expected to decide in the coming weeks if the motorway will require a fresh planning application.
Yesterday TaraWatch called on Environment Minister John Gormley to halt excavation works on the prehistoric ritual site while the board reviews the planning permission.
"The minister appears to be acting in bad faith here, by allowing demolition of the national monument to proceed while the board is making its legal determination," spokesman Vincent Salafia said. "Minister Gormley must stop the demolition by the NRA and Meath County Council now and permit only the excavation of the delicate features now exposed on the surface.
"This magnificant prehistoric amphitheatre, which sits in plain view of the hilltop, deserves the highest level of protection possible."
The Department of the Environment has said it does not have the power to alter the route of the road unless a "material change" or new information emerges.