Special EU Programmes Body gives funding approval for €18.3m Narrow Water Bridge

The independent steering committee of the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) has today (Wed, Oct 24) approved funding of approximately €17.4 m from the INTERREG IVA programme for a bridge across the Newry River at Narrow Water between Omeath, Co Louth and Warrenpoint, Co Down.

Given the amount of funding sought, project approval is also dependent on the financial support provided by the relevant accountable departments, which include the Department of Finance & Personnel in Northern Ireland and the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport in Ireland. These Departments will be required to provide initial funding for the construction project and recoup the INTERREG IVA funding from the European Union.

The SEUPB is responsible for managing two EU structural funds programmes – PEACE III and INTERREG IVA – designed to enhance cross-border co-operation, promote reconciliation and create a more peaceful and prosperous society. The programmes operate in Northern Ireland, the Border Region of Ireland and, in the case of INTERREG IVA, Western Scotland.

The €18.3m project was also approved in recent weeks by the planning authorities in Northern Ireland and by An Bord Pleanála in the Republic of Ireland.

The single-carriageway, 195 metres cable-stayed Narrow Water Bridge will connect Cornamucklagh near Omeath, Co Louth with Narrow Water near Warrenpoint, Co Down and the total length of the proposed scheme is 620m while the towers have a height of 90m and 37m respectively.

While first proposed in a sustained way almost 40 years ago in the mid-1970s, the current Narrow Water Bridge project commenced in 2008 when Louth County Council engaged Roughan O’Donovan Consulting Engineers to design a bridge in keeping with the outstanding natural beauty in the area. The same company designed the Boyne Bridge on the M1 near Drogheda.

At Narrow Water, a unique combined fixed cable-stayed and rolling bascule bridge design will facilitate cyclists and pedestrians as well as vehicular traffic and help to address tourism underperformance, promoting economic development and much-needed job creation. It will also facilitate vessels to travel up and down the Newry River/Carlingford Lough.

The bridge will open up the cross-border Cooley/Mournes/Gullion region to more visitors and make it much easier for residents, businesses and tourists to traverse the area.

The total cost of the project is just under €18.3m with €900,000 of Irish Government funding having been invested by Louth Local Authorities to date. East Border Region will act as lead partner and Louth County Council as lead council and Newry & Mourne District Council as partners on the project which is scheduled for completion in mid-2015.

Narrow Water Bridge has also been supported by Fáilte Ireland in recognition of the contribution it can make to capitalising on the tourism potential of areas around Carlingford Lough. The bridge will also increase traffic between the new Mourne Coastal Drive and the Boyne Valley Drive that Louth County Council and Meath County Council are developing.

Cllr Finnan McCoy, Cathaoirleach, Louth County Council, said: “Today’s decision by the independent steering committee of the Special EU Programmes Body is perhaps the single most important milestone in terms of delivering this iconic bridge which will be a hugely positive 21stCentury addition to this region. As well as all of its practical value, the Narrow Water Bridge will be a really powerful symbol of how far we have travelled in terms of community relations on this island.

“I now look forward to seeing early progress towards construction work commencing with a view to the bridge being ready for use in 2015.”

Joan Martin, County Manager, Louth Local Authorities, added: “We’re thrilled to get the funding approval from the Special EU Programmes Body and will now work with our partners at East Border Region and Newry & Mourne District Council as well as the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure that we move forwards without delay on commencing work on site.

“As well as the long-term benefits that the bridge will undoubtedly bring to the region, there will also be a considerable direct economic spin-off during construction of this project which will be the first cross-border structure of its kind to be built.”

INTERREG IVA is an EU-supported Structural Funds Programme that addresses economic and social problems that result from borders. It supports strategic cross-border cooperation for a more prosperous and sustainable region. The INTERREG IVA Programme is worth €256m with €192m of this from the EU and national contributions of €64m.

The Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB) is a North/South Implementation Body sponsored by the Department of Finance & Personnel in Northern Ireland and the Department of Finance in Ireland.

For more information, please visit www.seupb.eu