The statutory procedures governing the construction and improvement of trunk roads in Northern Ireland are contained in The Roads (Northern Ireland) Order 1993. The Roads (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2004 allows the three strands of the statutory procedures - Environmental Statement, Direction Order and Vesting Order - to be taken forward concurrently ie to be published into the public domain at the same time and to allow individual inquiries into each of the three strands of the statutory procedures to be held at the same time. The rights of the public to comment on the Environmental Statement or to object to the Direction Order and/or the Vesting Order are not diminished. This allows objectors to present a single case, incorporating all of their comments and objections, on one occasion.
Article 14 of The Roads (Northern Ireland) Order 1993 provides that:
Where the Department considers it expedient for the purpose of extending, improving or reorganising the trunk road system that any road should be designated as a trunk road; the Department may direct that (a) any existing Road (b) any road in the course of construction or (c) any road proposed to be constructed shall become a trunk road and the trunk road system should be modified accordingly.
The practical effect of the statutory procedure is the publication of a draft order and illustrative map describing the new trunk road.
Part V of The Roads (Northern Ireland) Order 1993 provides that:
The Department must publish any determination made by it as to whether or not the scheme is a relevant project or should be made subject to an environmental impact assessment in accordance with EC Council Directive 85/337/EEC as amended by EC Council Directive 97/11/EC and Directive 2003/35/EC of the European Parliament and Council and required by Part V of The Roads (Northern Ireland) Order 1993 as substituted by The Roads (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1999 and amended by The Roads (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2007.
The practical effect of the statutory procedure is, where an environmental impact assessment is required, publication of a notice confirming that the scheme is a relevant project and that an Environmental Statement has been prepared. (An Environmental Statement is a detailed report on the findings of an Environmental Impact Assessment carried out on the proposed scheme. In particular it describes, assesses and gives weight to the predicted environmental effects (adverse and beneficial) the scheme would have and details the measures proposed to reduce or eliminate those effects.)
Article 113 of The Roads (Northern Ireland) Order 1993 provides that:
Where the Department desires to acquire any land otherwise than by agreement, the Department may make an order vesting the land in the Department.
The practical effect of the statutory procedure is publication of a draft order, schedule and map describing the land to be acquired for construction of the new road.
Publication of draft orders and environmental statement
Notices are published in the Belfast Gazette and the local press informing the public that draft orders and an Environmental Statement have been prepared. The notices specify the time within which objections may be made and inform where the draft orders and Environmental Statement may be inspected.
Depending on the weight and content of comments and objections received, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) may convene a public inquiry to examine the case for and against the road proposal and to give the general public the chance to voice their views. The purpose of a public inquiry is to enable objectors and supporters to present their evidence before an independent Inspector. After the close of the inquiry, the Inspector will produce a report clearly setting out his or her conclusions; he or she does not make a decision, but recommends a course of action.
Confirmation of orders
After considering the Inspector’s Report, the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) will decide to confirm, modify or reject the scheme. The Department may make a decision which is contrary to the Inspector’s recommendations, although this not very common.