Key infrastructure projects for West Cork identified

Cllr Joe Carroll

A national blueprint for more balanced growth in Ireland has identified a number of key infrastructure projects vital for sustaining and increasing the population in West Cork.

A number of recommendations for improving infrastructure in the region are contained in a draft report compiled by the Southern Regional Assembly, which will form the basis for the National Planning Framework document.

It is a blueprint for vital projects which will be delivered between 2020 and 2040.

The Southern Regional Assembly is strongly supportive of the economic role of towns in West Cork and it is also supportive of improved connectivity.

The roads infrastructure in West Cork, in particular, lags behind many other areas of the country.

The report identifies measures which have to be taken to improve this situation.

Specific road corridors identified for upgrades include the N71, which runs from Cork to Glengarriff before it then crosses into Kerry linking Kenmare with Killarney.

While the section of the road from Cork to Halfway is relatively modern, it then deteriorates rapidly.

The report also says the R585 regional road from Bandon to Bantry via Dunmanway needs to be significantly upgraded, as does the R572, which links Castletownbere with the N71.

Cllr Joe Carroll, the only West Cork member of the Southern Regional Assembly welcomed the news.

He said representatives of the assembly living in rural areas had to battle hard to get their point across.

"The whole purpose of the National Planning Framework was to address the population imbalance between the Eastern seaboard and the rest of the country.

Initially it was designed to get growth in Waterford, Galway, Limerick and Metropolitan Cork.

There was total disregard for West Cork and Kerry, which is now being addressed," Cllr Carroll said.

He pointed out that improving connectivity would lead to more jobs being created in West Cork.

Cllr Carroll said the region relies heavily on its fishing industry and plans to expand it.

He said that there were a huge amount of trucks connected with the fishing industry which were having to negotiate the Dickensian 'Bantry Line' which runs from Crookstown, through Coppeen and onto Beara.

The councillor said the road was totally unsuitable for such traffic.

He said that was why it had been recommended that the main road serving the fishing industry in West Cork should be from Bandon through Dunmanway and onto Bantry.

Key infrastructure requirements also include investment for regeneration of town centres and relief roads for Skibbereen and Bantry.

A section of the report identifies further measures which can help the marine economy (fishing, offshore energy etc) and this includes the need for investment in the regeneration of a number of harbours along the West Cork coast.

In particular the ports of Bantry, Castletownberehaven, Union Hall and Schull are singled out as in need of further investment.

The importance of the Wild Atlantic Way Corridor is also referenced because of its tourist-drawing potential.

Reference is also made to increasing rural innovation through assets such as E-Centres in Bantry, Bere Island, Dunmanway, Goleen and the Ludgate Hub Skibbereen.

The report also says that improvements are needed to public transport in the region, including enhancing the Local Link service.

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