Macroom bypass a step closer as legal way cleared

Plans for a multimillion euro 40km bypass of one of the worst bottlenecks on the main Cork to Kerry road have taken a major step forward.

A High Court challenge against the Macroom bypass on the N22, approved by An Bord Pleanála in Apr 2011, has concluded.

Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley dismissed the application of Eileen Stack Shanahan and Gerard Sheehan for leave to appeal an earlier High Court decision which rejected a judicial review of the board’s 2011 approval of the dual carriageway from Ballyvourney to Coolcower.

The planning appeals board, the environment minister, the heritage minister, the county council, and National Roads Authority had opposed the action.

Among the applicants’ concerns was the impact the road could have on Carrigaphooka Castle and its environs, west of Macroom.

The proposed road is just 60 metres away from the four-storey castle, reputedly built in 1436 by Donal McCarthy of Drishane. The castle was semi-restored by the OPW in the 1970s.

But the judge’s decision clears the way for the first phase of the compulsory purchase order process to begin.

The road will run from Coolcower on the eastern side of Macroom to the county bounds at Sliabh Riogh in Ballyvourney. It will include 22km of dual carriageway, five roundabouts, and over 20 bridges, with construction expected to take at least two years.

However, government funding for the scheme, costed at up to €231m and which may be built under the terms of a public private partnership, has not yet been sanctioned.

Cork county manager Martin Riordan yesterday said the conclusion of the legal action is a significant step forward for the project.

He said the council now has 30 days to serve a notice — to negotiate — on landowners along the proposed route, signalling the council’s intent to acquire the land for the dual carriageway. He said the council intends to proceed with that process.

“This is a very important road project for the south west,” Mr Riordan said.

“It is a major tourism artery and as a western spine, is a very important road for Cork in terms of road infrastructure.”

Local Cllr Aindrias Moynihan (FF) said with the ending of the legal saga, “things will happen at pace now over the next month and it is important that we maintain this momentum to get on with the CPO and design tenders”.

The conclusion of the legal challenge gives the council certainty around the CPO process, and will allow it, subject to funding, to tender for consultants to do detailed design work.

It is expected the bypass will cost less than originally envisaged due to a fall in land value, and the ability of local authorities to get better value from contractors.

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