The Government and Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) have been accused of “giving the two fingers” to the dairy industry as well as to hauliers and commuters.
Co Cork mayor John Paul O’Shea said the refusal by the TII — formerly the NRA — to pay more than €400,000 to upgrade the main roundabout in Mallow was a recipe for traffic disaster.
He raised the issue yesterday at the Northern Division meeting of Cork County Council, claiming TII’s refusal to add an additional lane to the roundabout at Annabella — on the main Cork-Limerick road — would lead to traffic chaos.
Major co-op Dairygold is investing €83.5m in regenerating its milk processing plant in the town.
When the facility is fully operational, it will result in an additional milk tanker using the roundabout every 90 seconds.
Council engineers say the roundabout was already at capacity at rush hour and a second lane is vital.
When planning permission was granted by the former Mallow Town Council for the milk plant, Dairygold was asked to pay a development contribution of €514,000 for specifically changing the roundabout to accommodate the additional HGV traffic.
The company was successful with an appeal to An Bord Pleanála, which ruled it should only pay €91,000 towards the project. The row now centres on the outstanding €423,000 and who should pay for it.
Mr O’Shea said Dairygold was offering to pay the difference, but wanted a guarantee it would get the money back which TII will not give to the cash-strapped county council.
“TII doesn’t see this [roundabout alteration] as a priority,” said Mr O’Shea. “Ultimately there is a challenge here. It’s necessary for Dairygold’s expansion which will be in operation next February.
“There’s huge concern locally by transport operators that they’ll be delayed in Mallow. It’s on the main road, so it’s TII’s responsibility.”
Fianna Fáil councillor Dan Joe Fitzgerald said it was vital that some manner of settlement was reached as there were already lengthy tailbacks leading up to the roundabout during peak periods.
His party colleague, Kevin O’Keeffe, said Dairygold was going ahead with the huge expansion because of a Government initiative “to drive on the dairy sector” in the wake of the abolition of milk quotas.
“The TII should be coming onboard,” he said.
Mr O’Shea said: “Dairygold is pumping €83.5m into Mallow, the local and national economy and the Government and TII won’t pump in just over €400,000 for the roundabout.
“They are giving two fingers to the company and road users. I’m really frustrated about this. I’m proposing here and now that we send a very strong message to TII telling them to grow up.”
Councillors agreed to write “a very strong letter” to TII outlining the potential impact on the economy if the roundabout issue is not tackled urgently.
Assistant county manager James Fogarty said his officials fully supported such a move, adding he “wasn’t in favour of leaving TII off the hook”.
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