The way has been cleared for one of the biggest infrastructure plans in recent Cork history, the M28 motorway between Cork and Ringaskiddy, after legal challenges to the €250m project reached their end in Irish courts.
A legal challenge had been brought by residents to An Bord Pleanála’s green light for the planned 14km M28 motorway but the High Court last November refused residents of areas such as Douglas, Maryborough Hill, and Rochestown, known as the M28 Steering Group, leave to bring the case to the Court of Appeal.
The last option open to residents was a petition to the Supreme Court but it is understood that the highest court in the land has now declined that option.
Members of the Cabinet were briefed on the Supreme Court development this morning and the ruling in full will be published today.
It should now mean that €30m land preparatory works are ready to begin.
Supporters of the motorway say the project will ignite new economic and industrial life in the region by unlocking a major IDA landbank in the area and supporting the Port of Cork's move downriver to Ringaskiddy.
This will, in turn, free lands in the city's docklands for development.
Land acquisitions and preparatory works are expected to take three years before the bigger project of the motorway itself begins in 2024. If the planned timeline for construction is then adhered to, the M28 would open in 2027.
The M28 Steering Group, which claims to represent over 10,000 residents in the Maryborough Hill, Rochestown, Carrs Hill, Bloomfield, Mount Oval, Clarke’s Hill, and general Douglas area, wanted alternative plans drawn up that would cause less disruption to their daily lives.
Noise, traffic, pollution, and environmental damage were some of the concerns raised. The group garnered sizable support in the area for their campaign since forming in 2015.
Cork Chamber chief executive Conor Healy said the Supreme Court decision is “highly significant” in that it now paves the way for the M28 Ringaskiddy upgrade to move ahead without further delay.
“This essential piece of infrastructure, which is of national and regional importance, has been long delayed generating huge frustration. The residents and daily commuters along this corridor can now look forward to infrastructure that is fit for purpose in terms of capacity and safety.
“It is very positive news that the highly valued industry base, IDA land bank, and the Port of Cork can now be facilitated in delivering on development and expansion plans, which are of heightened importance as the region responds to existing and potential demands post-Brexit.” He said that the National Development Plan, currently under review, is “now essential”.
“It fully endorses the significance of this project and the need for it to move forward without any further delay with early government funding and construction timeline commitments.”
Chair of the M28 Steering Group, Ger Harrington, said it was a devastating blow but that the community would accept it.
"We left nothing out on the pitch, we fought the good fight, and exercised our constitutional right. The Supreme Court has sided with the Court of Appeal, and we will have to accept that. Our fears are legitimate, but commercial and political factors won out."
It is understood that leave to appeal to the European Court of Justice on the matter is not possible.