After the ‘lost’ years of recession, funding for maintenance and building of roads is on the agenda, says Áilín Quinlan
FROM the pub-owner concerned about the impact on his business, to the pensioner who fears the loss of the disability parking space in front of his home, residents of Bandon are gearing up to fight controversial proposals to re-route thousands of heavy goods vehicles through a quiet residential community.
The West Cork campaigners are not alone in expressing dissatisfaction with their local infrastructure — roads are a thorny issue across the Cork region. After some 10 ‘lost’ years of recession, during which funding for basic road maintenance and the construction of new roads was drastically cut, many local and regional routes throughout the region have deteriorated.
In 2008, Cork County Council had €82 million to spend on local and regional roads. The harsh economic downturn saw that figure fall to €39m in 2016. This funding is now back up, to €60.2m this year, says Padraig Barrett, Cork County Council’s director of services and roads and transport
“If funding had remained at 2008 levels, an additional €358m would have been spent on regional and local roads over those 11 or 12 years between 2008 and 2019,” he said.
“That didn’t happen, and roads are now in need of significant investment,” he said, adding that funds are now becoming available to address deficits that occurred over that time.
However, Barrett warns, realistically, the level of funding received this year by the local authority would allow just 1.5% of roads to be strengthened and 2.5% to be surface-maintained.
In Bandon, there is growing opposition to proposals for Kilbrogan Hill, contained in the 2016 Bandon Transportation and Public Realm Enhancement Plan (T/PREP).
Residents, businesses, and organisations have voiced fears that the T/PREP proposals to route heavy traffic through Kilbrogan Hill on the north side of the town would “destroy” this quiet residential area and turn it into a site of ongoing traffic gridlock, explains Alan Tennyson, spokesman for the Northside Neighbours action group.
“People were very angry. They are worried about the current levels of congestion in the area, never mind these plans to bring in HGVs,” he said, pointing out that the T/PREP proposes, among other things, the construction of a northern relief road from the N71, which would be completed in two phases.
Phase one would bring traffic from the main Cork/Bandon road onto the Macroom road near the ABP meat factory.
Phase two would route traffic from that point onwards to the Dunmanway road, which would, acknowledges Mr Tennyson, “basically leave Kilbrogan Hill alone”.
However, he added, residents believe phase two will never be completed, since it involves the compulsory purchase orders of homes in existing housing estates.
In response, Padraig Barrett emphasises that at this point T/PREP is only “a recommendation”, adding that public fears about its impact are “premature at this point in time”.
MEANWHILE, businesses in North Cork are hampered by a road infrastructure that is “not fit for purpose”, according to Patrick Buckley, MD of waste-water treatment, water treatment, and pumping specialist EPS.
Mr Buckley’s company, which employs some 450 people, has a national network of offices in Mallow, Ballyhaunis in Co Mayo, Mountrath in Co Laois, Naas in Co Kildare, and Bangor, Co Down.
“The key regarding road infrastructure for this region’s businesses is linkage to ports, airports, and cities like Limerick, Waterford, Cork, and also to the Kerry region. The current infrastructure throughout North Cork is completely inadequate for the needs of the region,” he said.
“We don’t have a motorway connecting Cork to Limerick, for example. There’s a clear need for that to be built,” he observed, adding that the “key need” for a bypass for Mallow town has also been well documented.
“Another key point for areas in North Cork, Duhallow, and Sliabh Luachra is that linkages from Mallow to Killarney and the routes from Mallow to Boherbue, Castleisland, and Tralee need to be addressed.
“If you really want to develop this region, the regional road infrastructure needs to be enhanced. We don’t need a motorway or a dual carriageway, but we do need a significantly enhanced regional road infrastructure,” he said, adding that villages and towns such as Banteer, Dromtariffe, Rathmore, Boherbue, Knocknagree and Ballydesmond were “completely restricted” in terms of business development because of severely substandard road access.
Furthermore, said Mr Buckley, an enhanced route between North Cork and Farranfore airport near Killarney would be of huge benefit to the region.
While Padraig Barrett acknowledges that the Cork-Limerick motorway has been “in abeyance” for nearly a decade, it is now back on the table.
Technical advisers will be appointed, he says, and traffic modelling is currently under way to assist in determining the best possible route for this motorway and to assess what is happening in terms of traffic flow in the area under investigation.
Elsewhere in the region, Conor Healy, CEO of Cork Chamber of Commerce, is concerned about the knock-on effects of the delay in the Dunkettle Interchange project and the poor state of the N25 from Cork to Waterford.
Dunkettle, he warned, is a pivotal project which influences many other projects in the Cork region.
“The delay in the project is a significant blow to the development of the necessary infrastructure in the Cork region,” he said.
“The Dunkettle Interchange links to the Cork- Ringaskiddy route, which is undergoing judicial review at the moment, and that route cannot go ahead until the Dunkettle Interchange is completed.
“The completion of the port development in Ringaskiddy will be impacted, as well as the wider Little Island area and the broad Mahon area, which are areas of significant employment and population and are also very dependent on the Dunkettle Interchange.”
Mr Healy also expressed deep concern about the state of the N25 from Cork to Waterford.
Stephen Belton, president of Midleton Chamber of Commerce and a hotelier who runs the Garryvoe Hotel and the Bayview Hotel in Ballycotton, believes a relief road or bypass of traffic-clogged Castlemartyr, and an improved traffic plan for the summers in Ballycotton are badly needed.
Donal Kelleher, who runs the busy Copper Grove Bar, Restaurant and B&B on Kilbrogan Hill, in Bandon, isconcerned about theeffects of the T/PREP plan both on hisbusiness and on the quality of livinggenerally in the area.
“The Northern Relief Road would work as a solid line from the Cork Road to a point near the ABP factory. Then there would be a routebringing the heavytraffic from there out on to the Dunmanway road.
“In its entirety, this would mean HGV traffic on Kilbrogan Hill.
“However, the first phase is being mooted where vehicles would come out near the ABP factory and driveKilbrogan Hill en route to the Dunmanway Road. That wouldliterally mean very large lorries coming down Kilbrogan Hill outside my premises.
“At the moment there are anything between 800 and 1,000 HGVs going through Bandon and we believe a lot of them would be routed down Kilbrogan Hill.
“My concern is that at least 45 car parking spaces will be lost on the Hill and there’s appears to be no proposal or plan that I have seen to provide car parking spaces for ourselves and our customers. It will be a very serious increase in the volume of traffic on Kilbrogan Hill and it will be a major loss of car park spaces.
“There are peopleliving on Kilbrogan Hill who for health reasons need to have their cars parked outside their door. I am concerned about the loss of the parking spaces and the fact that there is noproposal to providealternative parking to my customers or to residents of Kilbrogan Hill.
“Ours is a very busy bar, restaurant and B&B with more than 35 employees. How will we get deliveries to our premises, for example, if there’s no parking and the road will be so busy?
“I look at it from the business point of view, but there is a great community spirit in this area; we’re all neighbours and friends and I’m very concerned about my fellow neighbours on Kilbrogan Hill and the problems the loss of spaces will cause.
“It will have a very detrimental effect on the whole area. To me this hasn’t been thought out. It’s already very busy, given all the schools in the vicinity — there are about four — and there’s already a huge volume of traffic on this side of the town.
“If we don’t deal with the traffic issues now, it’ll be very detrimental to the community here and to Bandon as a town.”
Five years ago, pensioner Jimmy Deasy applied for, and received a disability parking space outside his home on Bandon’s Kilbrogan Hill.
The 71-year-old, who has lived all of his lifeon the Hill and on the nearby North Main Street has significant mobility and problems and suffers from aheart condition — atrial fibrillation.
“My mobility is poor. I use two crutches or a walker, but I’m not able to walk any significant distance,” he says.
In 2014, the retired haulier successfullyapplied for a disability parking space outside his door “I use it regularly. There’s no parking at the back of the house. Behind the car is aconcrete ramp to the footpath to help meaccess the footpath when I get out of the car.
“The ramp and the disabled parking space are crucial for me.” Jimmy attended the recent public meeting in Bandon about fears that Cork County Council plans to remove many carpark spaces onKilbrogan Hill to allow for the passage of heavy good vehicles up and down the hill.
“As I understand it, both the ramp and the disabled parking space will be lost if the county council goes ahead with this plan to bring heavy traffic through Kilbrogan Hill.
“Up to 80 or 90 parking spaces will be lost,because in the newsystem there will be three lanes of traffic outside my door instead of about one and a half.
“The nearest parking for me in that case would be around a quarter of a mile from my house in Laurel Walk. My wife Mary is unable to drive so she wouldn’t be able to go and get the car and drive it up to the house for me.
“Alternatively, I would be parking at the town park which is a quarter of a mile in the other direction but the same problems would apply and anyway both of these areas would probably be full of cars because of the loss ofall those spaces onKilbrogan Hill.
“This would make life very difficult. It would take away my independence and it would also affect my wife because she depends on me to drive her places.
It’s not just him, he says: “There are a lotof elderly residents on Kilbrogan Hill; there are a lot of older peopleliving here who depend on their cars to get around.” He worries that the plan makes no provision for alternative parking places:
“This area has two creches, a busy sports club and several schools! I think the plan is insane, purely insane.
“On a wet day with school traffic alone the place is bedlam, and if there are all these extra trucks and lorries this will be a problem.
“I think it will bring the whole north side of the town to a standstill.”