€70k fund may be lost in disabled parking row

Funding of €70,000 could be forfeited for the creation of two parking bays for disabled transport unless a last-minute compromise is agreed between local businesses and county council officials in a West Cork town.

A complaint was made two years ago by a member of the public to the National Transport Authority (NTA) about the lack of disabled access in Skibbereen.

The authority later made €70,000 available to develop two parking bays for buses transporting disabled people. But after an agreement could not be reached on specific locations, the money was refunded to the department.

Cork County Council’s traffic and transportation policy unit later identified two locations in Skibbereen. A contract was signed recently to provide the parking services at Market Street and Main Street.

Work was scheduled to commence in the next few weeks with a year-end completion date, otherwise the funding would have to be returned again.

All seemed to be going smoothly, until yesterday when a spanner was thrown in the works during a meeting of the council’s West Cork Municipal District in Clonakilty.

Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) managed to get standing orders suspended to discuss the issue.

The Skibbereen-based councillor said businesspeople were opposed to developing a bus parking bay in Market Street, pointing out it was earmarked for a particularly narrow part of the street which could lead to congestion and would result in the loss of six prime car parking spaces. “The bottom line is it’s not acceptable. It should be put further along the road at the Drinagh Co-Op premises,” he said.

Cllr Christopher O’Sullivan (FF) said the spot chosen was “extremely awkward as it was too near traffic lights and the post office”.

“We need some more consultation with the business people,” he said, while Cllr Michael Collins (Ind) agreed.

Cllr Pt Murphy (FF), who is wheelchair-bound, said wheelchair accessible bus stops are extremely important, but it was vital alternative sites be investigated.

Council officials agreed to enter into further consultation, but were quick to point out time was running out, warning the funding was at risk.

They also hinted if the funding was again returned, it may not be allocated the future.

Although the planned disabled parking area at Main Street was not in dispute, officials pointed out that the NTA was not interested in the provision of just one bus stop for the disabled. The grant had stipulated both parking bays would have to be provided.


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