Archive for October, 2012

Elephant in the Room – From Clare Champion

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

THE lack of adequate space for pedestrians crossing the existing bridge on a daily basis linking Killaloe and Ballina has been described as the “elephant in the room” in relation to the provision of a new river crossing and bypass.

Bill Morrissey, chartered civil engineer and commercial manager, who appeared on behalf of objectors, claimed the new Shannon Bridge Crossing wouldn’t do anything to resolve safety on the existing bridge for pedestrians, particularly those with buggies and children.

Despite the provision of a report from Michael Punch and Partners in 1996 about the feasibility of widening the bridge, he claimed during an oral hearing on Tuesday that Clare County Council had done nothing to address the problem since then.

Mr Morrissey predicted even if Clare County Council spent between €20 and €50 million on the new scheme, it would do nothing to improve the situation concerning pedestrians who would still use the existing bridge.

“This is the elephant in the room, ye missed it,” he declared.

Barrister Dermot Flanagan, who represents the council, pointed out the Punch Report was a historical document that outlined the situation as it existed in 1996 when the Habitats’ Directive was not in place.

There was no design in place for a new river crossing and no suggestion of a Killaloe Bypass.
While this report was referenced in the EIS, he felt it should be considered as background information.

Stating the developer had made provision for pedestrians in the EIS, Mr Flanagan said he would be guided by the inspector in terms of dealing with alternatives to the new crossing, which have already been dealt with in a previous Constraints Study.

Project manager Michael Conroy pointed out the route selection was examined in a study conducted by RPS Consultants.

Mr Morrissey said Mr Conroy couldn’t give any evidence concerning the route selection process, as RPS weren’t present.

Mr Flanagan stated a representative from RPS was available but it was decided he wasn’t required.

Mr Morrissey said he couldn’t understand why a decision was taken to locate the route for the Shannon Bridge Crossing through an SAC, a protected habitat and a residential area where international investors had spent large sums of money providing substantial homes with pleasure grounds and amenities.

“No one here can say why we are doing this,” he said.

Senior planning inspector, Stephen Fay, who is chairing the hearing, asked Mr Morrissey if he was suggesting an alternative or better route.

Mr Morrissey said if he was involved in the design of such a scheme, he would keep well away from residential areas and locations of environmental significance.

Mr Flanagan disagreed with Mr Morrissey’s analysis and noted issues relating to property rights could be dealt with under statutory compensation, while issues concerning the route selection were dealt within the EIS.

Acknowledging that all the council agents were professional people, Mr Morrissey expressed concern there was no one present at the hearing from Clare County Council management to deal with this “mistake”.

Mr Flanagan felt this comment, which he didn’t support, was not worthy of a response.

Mr Fay asked Mr Morrissey could he point out an alternative route or reasons why any route should be considered or dismissed.

Mr Morrissey said he would have provided a report in the EIS on various options within the CPO corridor, which was common practice.

Mr Flanagan stated this wasn’t always the case and noted the developer had provided an EIS on the chosen route.

According to a report completed by Michael Punch and Partners in 1996, a standalone new footbridge completely independent of the existing masonry bridge costing between €720,000 and €1.44 million could be located upstream or downstream of the existing bridge.

The consultants stressed their assessment didn’t purport to provide a detailed technical examination of the proposal and noted this would be the subject of a further report should it be warranted.

Shannon bridge Crossing and Killalo Bypass – From Nenagh Guardian

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Oral hearing on Ballina-Killaloe bridge
(13/10/2012)

By Peter Gleeson
An oral hearing by An Bord Pleanala on plans for a new bridge over the Shannon at Ballina-Killaloe could last a number of weeks if objectors to the scheme are not dealt with in a meaningful way.
The claim was made on day one of the hearing in The Abbey Court Hotel in Nenagh on Monday by Richard Rae, who, along with John Crowley, are consultants for up to 70 people who have concerns/objections in relation to the scheme.
Clare County Council, as the lead local authority in the project, is seeking to acquire lands by compulsory purchase order to facilitate the construction of the new bridge downstream of the existing bridge. The latter is deemed too narrow for modern day traffic purposes.
The scheme includes plans to construct a bypass of the town of Killaloe and an upgrade of the R494 route linking Birdhill and Ballina.
In an opening statement at the hearing, Mr Rae said Clare County Council had refused to engage in a meaningful manner with his clients and those of Mr Crowley.
Mr Rae said the council had failed to respond until last week to detailed points submitted by him back in May of this year, aimed at assisting the local authority in furthering the project.
He said he and Mr Crowley were rejecting an offer made by the council on October 3rd last, which, he said, was “in effect asking us to act against the best interests of our clients and is coercion”.
“We are not prepared to accept a Clare County Council substandard design and lack of legal commitment,” said Mr Rae.
He said the standard required for the scheme should be the same standard as that which applied during the construction of the M7 through North Tipperary and the M8 through South Tipperary, “and all other national roads that we have been involved in”.
He said he and Mr Crowley would not be abiding by a request that they withdraw objections on behalf of their clients by Tuesday of this week.
“Even if Clare County Council were to offer us 30,000 pieces of silver per client, there will be no withdrawal of objections to meet the Clare County Council deadline,” said Mr Rae.
Mr Rae submitted that under the Danish system, the Irish way of dealing with compulsory purchase orders would be deemed to be fatally flawed, “because the system does not act in favour of the person impacted by a CPO”.
Mr Rae told the hearing that it would take up to two weeks for the oral hearing to deal with the submissions of his and Mr Crowley’s clients, if the Clare County Council did not fairly address their submissions. “We could be here for an awful long time.”
Stephen Kay, the chief planning inspector who is conducting the oral hearing on behalf of An Bord Pleanala, said there were a total of 86 objections to the scheme.
Peter Sweetman, a representative for a number of other objectors, said it was unacceptable that the Office of Public Works were not present at the hearing.
He described a submission made to the hearing by the National Roads Authority as “unintelligible” and said it, too, had a duty to be at the hearing, as did CIE who had land in the area of the scheme.
Mr Sweetman also said that certain documentation and transcripts that should have been made available to the inquiry were unavailable – a situation he referred to as “sloppy”.
Mr Kay said Clare County Council had made a commitment to make such documents available to the hearing and was prepared to facilitate people with copies. He said any concerns raised about the absence of the NRA, CIE and the OPW from hearing would be noted when evidence was being taken.
Barrister Michael O’Donnell, representing a number of objectors, said certain documentation pertaining to the environmental impact assessment would have to be made available by the council so that it could be meaningfully discussed. He said certain evidence would be prejudicial to his clients if specific documents were not made available, and it would not be appropriate to proceed with the hearing unless the material he requested was furnished.
Project manager of the proposed scheme, Michael Conroy, of Roughan O’Donovan Consulting Engineers, said a bypass of Killaloe was considered a necessary part of the scheme as it would assist in traffic reduction in Ballina-Killaloe, making the area more of an attractive place to live and visit.
He said a bypass would assist in the overall development potential of Killaloe and improve access to the area and to nearby towns such as Scariff and Tulla.
Mr Conroy said the existing narrow bridge over the Shannon was a protected structure and could not be widened or improved to accommodate present day traffic requirements. The proposed scheme would substantially reduce traffic congestion in the area.