A proposed €180m motorway linking Cork City to Ringaskiddy will be “going into the bedrooms” of residents living along the route, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told a planning hearing yesterday.
However, consultants defended the chosen route and dismissed suggestions a different course should have been chosen, stating that there is no planning policy in place to endorse the development of an alternative roadway.
The proposed development envisages an upgrade of around 12.5km of the N28, from the Bloomfield interchange at the South Ring Road to the Port of Cork in Ringaskiddy.
An Bord Pleanála received 139 submissions on the project, of which 48 included objections.
Objectors include residents who say their health and quality of life will suffer a severe detrimental impact if the existing road is expanded, while those who made submissions in support of the scheme include the Port of Cork and the Irish Business and Employers Confederation.
Mr Martin, a TD for Cork South Central, told the fourth day of the An Bord Pleanála oral hearing the proposals are “shoe-horning” a motorway into a narrow space, a development that would be “incompatible with residential life” for the thousands of people living along the preferred route.
He said deeper consideration should have been given to other proposed developments, and he believed “alternative routes that were considered were not considered in great depth”.
“The current design, I would argue, represents a very significant challenge to the residential amenity of people living along the route itself, particularly in terms of health, noise pollution, and the residential amenity of the residents of Lissadell, Rochestown Rise, Wainsfort, and Newlyn Vale,” said Mr Martin.
“To, me the inclusion of the additional carriageway there represents an impossible situation for the residents into the future.
“Go down there right now and visit the areas, you can see the intimidatory imposing vista and reality that the existing roadway represents to the residents there.
“What has been proposed, to me, represents an unacceptable and impossible scenario for the residents to continue to live in any reasonable quality of life situation into the future.
“Essentially it’s almost going into the bedrooms of the people along those particular estates.
“It is an alarming prospect for anyone there; to me it has extremely serious consequences for residents in the area.
“The roadway is simply in on top of the bedrooms of people.”
Mr Martin said assurances that any development would include noise abatement measures has been met with scepticism by residents, who have previously tried and failed to secure a reduction in the noise pollution from the existing road.
He was also critical of changes to the route as it reaches Ringaskiddy, noting that an acceptable proposal put forward in 2008 has since been adapted to a roadway that objectors say will split the village in two.
“It baffles me from any planning perspective as to how it is considered to be preferable to go right through a village and cut it in half,” he said.
The route, he noted, also passes through a site earmarked for a new school.
Mr Martin said, in planning matters, the people of Ringaskiddy “get kicked from the system in the teeth time and time again”, and said a decision on the proposed Indaver incinerator has been deferred several times.
“Some people are speculating that it is because of this oral hearing, that An Bord Pleanála may not want to make a call in advance of this hearing but that is a matter of speculation,” he said.
In response, Dermot Flanagan, counsel for Cork County Council, said proposed alternative routes are not supported at policy level by the local authority, as per local area and county development plans adopted by elected councillors.
Kieran Kennedy, consultant with RPS Planning for Cork County Council, said the Government’s planning policy statement of 2015 said its first principle states that planning “must, not may, be plan led and evidence-based”.
“If you apply that to the consideration of alternatives, and particularly to the concept of providing a road link from Ringaskiddy to Cork Airport, you will find there is no plan basis for it,” he said.
He said there is no policy in any document that supports the linking of Ringaskiddy to Cork Airport.
Mr Kennedy also said it was “somewhat ironic” that members of Cork County Council came to the hearing to object to the development, given they are the policymakers for Cork county, yet did not seek to introduce any policy to link Ringaskiddy to the airport when the County Development Plan was drafted in 2014.
He said: “If you look at the Local Area Plan which was only prepared a number of months ago, there is no reference in there to an alternative route.”
He said if an alternative route is to have any credibility, it must be based in a policy such as the county or Local Area Plans, otherwise, it is contrary to the Government’s 2015 planning policy statement.
In reply, Mr Martin queried what policy document supported the controversial route into Ringaskiddy.
“The entire planning context for Ringaskiddy was never to cut the village in half,” he said.
Mr Martin also noted the planners’ response to his submission did not address the issues he raised regarding the imposition on the residents of Lissadell, Rochestown Rise, Wainsfort and Newlyn Vale.
Mr Flanagan said such issues will be addressed when the hearing continues next week.
Mr Martin also submitted that he had been told that alternative routes were considered as part of the development’s Environmental Impact Assessment as a result of an instruction received from Transport Minister Shane Ross.
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