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Public consultation key for infrastructure projects

13 November, 2008

Public consultation is a key element for infrastructure investment said Conor Murphy today.

This was the Regional Development Minister's message to the All Island Public Consultation Conference in Dublin. He was speaking alongside former London Mayor, Ken Livingstone and Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan, TD.

The Minister said: "As Transport Minister for the North, I and indeed my department, place a high level importance on public consultation.

"Over the next ten years my department will be investing in excess of £6billion in the North's infrastructure. Essentially this investment is about improving the quality of life for people in the North and this very aim, highlights how important public consultation is.

"Given the magnitude of the investment, especially in the current economic downturn, it is vital that our infrastructure improvements are not only focused on achieving value for money but are brought forward with the support of local communities.

DRD Roads Service has an investment programme of some £3.1billion to be delivered over the next ten years. This is a record investment of which £2.5billion is targeted at improving our strategic road network.

The Minister said: "I believe that an essential element of the successful delivery of a major programme of road improvements is consultation with stakeholders. The development of a major roads project, from inception to completion, often takes many years and it is vital that we engage with these stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of the project, to get their feedback.

"As well as identifying the options, it is important that the public consultation events highlight the benefits that will result from the scheme implementation. Helping the public to see the bigger picture and how road schemes can improve their community, for example, through the potential of improved economic development, improved road safety and reduction in social exclusion, can only serve to gain public support.

At the All Island Public Consultation Conference the Minister mentioned the North's largest ever road project, the dualling of the A5 which runs from Derry to the border at Aughnacloy just north of Monaghan. This will provide the North West of Ireland with a much improved route to Dublin.

A key stakeholder in this project is the Irish Government, who is making a significant investment in the scheme. This shows all island co-operation and to a degree requires all island consultation.

The Minister said: "I would like to highlight that through the Cross Border Steering Group, officials in my Department have formed an excellent working relationship with their counterparts in the National Roads Authority and Department of Transport in the South. As this is the largest scheme ever undertaken in the North, a major communications strategy is in place.

"As part of this process public exhibitions have been held identifying the objectives of the scheme. Feedback received at those events, along with feedback from the elected representatives in Derry, Strabane, Omagh and Dungannon Councils in the North and Donegal and Monaghan Councils in the South, is now being considered as part of the wider assessment process.

"This scheme is being developed to a very tight deadline and public consultation has not been left to chance. We recognise that public support is crucial to achieving our target. This will mean coming up with an answer that is most acceptable to road users, to business, to local communities, and to government. This will be a major challenge, but it is one that I and my department are more than happy to accept.

"My department is striving to achieve best practice in respect of consultation on major projects and ensuring it provides its stakeholders and customers with accessible information as quickly and effectively as possible."

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