Residents in limbo as they await NRA route choice

AS residents of the Ballyhoura district in north Cork, my wife and I may be adversely affected by the proposed €1 billion super-highway — the M20 — between Cork and Limerick.

The National Roads Authority (NRA) has earmarked two possible routes for the new road running through this area (just south of Charleville). One route is designated the yellow route, the other the red route.

From the maps provided — some of which were out of date — and from speaking with NRA representatives, it is clear they are unable or unwilling to specify the exact course either of these routes would take, thus leaving residents in a state of limbo, not knowing whether their lives will be affected.

With regard to the necessity of the upgrade itself, An Taisce’s Ian Lumley recently stated that the traffic volume between Cork and Limerick did not justify the project, particularly when we are being asked to reduce our carbon emissions (Irish Examiner, August 19).

Brian Guckian, an environmental campaigner, carried out research to assess the volume of traffic using the existing N20 and discovered it to be 8,000 vehicles a day (in both directions). The proposed upgrade will take 55,000 vehicles a day (Irish Examiner, August 19). One of the proposed routes — the yellow route — cuts into the Ballyhoura mountains. This route will cross what the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) has termed a regionally important aquifer, stating in its publication Geology of Kerry-Cork (1997): “Until the 1970s this formation was not known to be a significant aquifer, but since then it has been developed as a major source of public water supply in north Cork, around the margins of the Ballyhoora (sic) mountains... The most notable development is for the Charleville water supply...”

The water supply in the vicinity of the proposed route is very close to the surface. At a time of particular concern about water contamination, any development which has the potential to interfere with the public water supply should be frowned upon.

The yellow route will also interfere with the natural habitat of bats, badgers, the native red squirrel and the native Irish hare.

Currently, as the flora, fauna and environment of this country are under threat from over-development, it is strange we insist on proceeding with a development that is unnecessary. If we are to proceed with this project, it seems strange to consider routing it through an environmentally sensitive area.

Local residents were originally notified about the proposed routes in mid-July. The NRA’s decision is due to be made at the end of this month. That is approximately three months.

This is a very short timeframe to allow those affected voice their opinions and for the NRA to make a major decision which will affect people’s lives.

Under law, an environmental impact assessment must be carried out, and the NRA has stated it will carry out such an assessment and present it to An Bord Pleanála.

However, it would appear the assessment has not yet been carried out. This, you would imagine, should be completed before any final decision on a route is made. If it has already been carried out on all proposed routes, surely it should be made available to those who will be affected by any decision?

The questions to be asked are:

1. What decision-making process led the NRA to choose the proposed routes?

2. In choosing the routes, did it carry out any assessment on the impact a major road would have on the residents and the environment?

3. What is the rush to spend approximately €1 billion of taxpayers’ money?

Is the NRA afraid the project will be deemed unnecessary and, in the current economic climate, lose the funding?

Patrick O’Regan

Ballycosgry

Ballyhea

Charleville

Co Cork

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