Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Planning approval for Narrow Water bridge

Environment Minister Alex Attwood said the planning application for a bridge between counties Down and Louth was processed in the correct manner and in line with departmental procedures, on 11 December 2012.

Mr Attwood gave a statement to the assembly to show that the planning process in relation to Narrow Water bridge was "unassailable".

On 4 December 2012, the finance minister told the Assembly he believed there was "a political smell" about the application.

Sammy Wilson questioned the speed with which environment minister Alex Attwood granted Article 31 planning permission to the proposal for the bridge.

On 11 December, Mr Attwood said questions raised in that debate had already been answered by him. They addressed the timing of the application and the advice of consultees.

The environment minister also said other Article 31 applications had been "dealt with quickly", including Ikea at Holywood Exchange, a shopping development in Glengormley and a high school County Down.

He said that the Executive had made a commitment in the Programme for Government for 2015 that 90% of large scale investment decisions were made within six months and applications with job creation potential were "given extra weight".

"The particular target for this year is 60%," he said.

"I have made it clear that I expect this commitment to be achieved."

Mr Attwood told the assembly the decision to approve the bridge at Narrow Water was a "good planning decision, made in good time, on good grounds".

In October, the European Union said it would give 17.4m euros to fund the single-lane cable bridge.

It will run between County Louth and County Down.

The bridge will be 660 metres long and could be open by 2015.

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