By Joe Leogue
Businesses and locals in a Cork harbour town have reacted with anger after road closures for an Irish Water scheme were approved before a planned meeting with residents and traders had taken place.
A councillor warned that businesses in Passage West fear prolonged disruption to passing trade could cause them to shut their doors.
The Cork City side of the main R610 road through Passage West will close for three weeks from next Monday, a move approved last week by Cork County Council.
The council’s decision was announced in a public notice in Saturday’s Irish Examiner and came ahead of a meeting between businesses and an independent adviser hired by Irish Water’s parent company, Ervia, to mediate following outcry at the plans.
Local politicians, traders, and residents had assumed the adviser had been hired with a view to finding a way to facilitate the works that would be acceptable to the people of Passage West.
However, that adviser met with local businesses for the first time on Tuesday night — almost a week after the council had already signed off on the road closures.
The works in question involve the laying of sewage piping as part of the Cork Lower Harbour Main Drainage Project.
Original plans to facilitate the works with a period of road closures during July and August, and another in September and October, sparked criticism from locals who feared Passage would suffer a fall in passing trade and logistical transport issues, especially with children returning to school.
The backlash prompted Irish Water to seek the independent adviser to engage with the community.
Revised plans that would see three sections of road closures were similarly rejected by locals, who said the changes did not go far enough to address concerns.
Last month, nearly 700 people, in one day, signed a petition to the council against the closures.
Independent councillor Marcia D’Alton said she was one of a number of locally based politicians, including TD Micheál Martin and councillors Seamus McGrath and Michael Murphy, who aired concerns with the independent adviser days before the council issued its decision.
She said the people of Passage West welcomed the works and tolerated some associated disruption, but the proposed road closures were a step too far.
“We’ve been dealing with the project on the ground for a year now, we’ve had some delays, dirt, and noise. It’s been a pain in the neck, but it’s fine, we want the project to happen,” she said.
Ms D’Alton said the new proposals merely “shaved off” some of the duration of the road closures but that there has been little else to address concerns. Communication from Irish Water to date has been lacking. “It’s very hard to work in the dark,” she said.
“Customers are asking traders in the town questions about how they’ll be affected by the closures, and they don’t know what to tell them.
“Councillors are getting the same questions over and over, but not getting answers. The communication from Ervia has been horrendous.”
The Irish Examiner has requested comment from Ervia.