Serious concerns have been raised over the future of a bridge which is a main route into a Co Cork coastal town.
Cork County Council has heard claims that Slatty Bridge, near Fota Golf Club, is sinking and if urgent work is not carried out on it soon it may have to be closed.
There are fears that this would lead to serious traffic problems as the only other road into Cobh — a busy commuter town — is a much smaller road which runs from Carrigtwohill past Barrycourt Castle and then joins the main road into Cobh opposite Fota Island Hotel and Spa.
That road is thought to be be unsuitable for heavy traffic and, in addition, in recent times there has also been concern over flooding at Belvelly bridge to the south of the hotel.
The road has been closed there on occasion due to flooding.
Cllr Anthony Barry of Fine Gael told council officials that he had looked closely at Slatty Bridge, which was built in the 1700s, and that he had major concerns about its stability.
He maintained that water pumping stations there were not operating properly during recent flooding and this was not helping the situation.
“The bridge was built in the 1700s to access the island [Great Island] and it then turned into a causeway to drain the land behind. Sluice gates were installed there in the 1930-1940s to dry up the land,” Cllr Barry said.
“The road [on the bridge] is giving way, meaning something is dropping underneath. In the last 12 months the situation has deteriorated seriously.
“Now salt water is seeping in [from the tidal estuary].”
Council officials admitted the bridge area has become “porous” and that they were constantly trying to patch it up.
Engineers have referred the matter to experts in the council’s coastal management committee, in the hope that they can draw down the necessary finances to find a solution to the problem.
They said they hoped to have a report on the matter made available to local councillors soon.
Cllr Barry said: “If this bridge had to close I’d be seriously concerned about road access into Cobh.”
Underinvestment by successive governments in Fota Road and the bridges at Slatty and Belvelly have dogged the council for years.
If access was to be cut off at the bridges the only way into the town of Cobh would be via the railway, or the cross-river ferry service.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved