FUNDING for the proposed €65million road improvement scheme on the N86 Dingle-Tralee road may be in jeopardy following An Bórd Pleanála's recent decision to reject the plan in its current format, according to a local county councillor.
An Bórd Pleanála has requested that a number of revisions be made before the plan can be re-submitted. Included in those requests: that the road's carriageway and the overall land-take be reduced; less interference with natural landscape features, and more detailed proposals in relation to the re-instatement and landscaping.
The revisions also call for the omission of the cycleway from the main route, suggesting instead that an alternative cycleway could be developed along non-national routes such as the Dingle Way walking route.
However, according to Dingle councillor Seamus Cosaí Fitzgerald the €65million investment in the road may now be at risk. He says that if the cycleway is removed from the plans for the main route, the N86 DingleTralee road may "no longer be seen as a priority for upgrading" and, as a consequence, "the project could collapse".
"It is because of the inclusion of the cycleway on the N86, as identified as a tourist strategic route for cycling, that the project has been prioritised for funding and without this, it may not receive funding for improvements and upgrades," Cllr Fitzgerald has pointed out.
Commenting on An Bórd Pleanála's revision requests, he added that while the request to reduce the carriageway in width is reasonable, the development of an alternative route through private landholdings and narrower by-roads has the potential to be "fraught with difficulties".
He also expressed concerns regarding the safety of the N86 in its current state.
"We must live in a practical world and if this project isn't allowed to proceed we could still be talking about the possibility of developing a cyclepath on parts of the Dingle Way and by-roads in 20 years' time," he said,
This issue has proven itself to be a divisive one as some feel the road development to be excessive and that unique landscape features - such as the hairpin bends near Annascaul - should be preserved.
Others, however, have cited grave concerns as to the N86's current state - the main route connecting Dingle and Tralee - in terms of road safety for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians if the improvement scheme was not to progress.
Dingle Peninsula Tourism issued a statement on the matter this week, stating that while they 'welcome any sensitive improvements to access routes to the area' they 'acknowledge the decision of An Bórd Pleanála and await with interest any further developments ...
'It is not for us to take a position about a situation like this, one way or the other, but to promote the peninsula as best we can depending on what the final outcome will be,' the statement concluded.
Dingle Chamber sent out an appeal this week to all the parties - those in favour and against the upgrading - to come together ' to ensure such a huge investment in the infrastructure of the Dingle Peninsula is not lost', offering the services of their organisation to start 'a mediation process to ensure the plans are not shelved'.