Friday 13 December 2019

High Court will decide next week if work can resume on Kilkenny bridges

The High Court will decide early next week if construction work can resume on two bridges, one of which has been the scene of protests by local people, in Kilkenny City.

Last week local man Christopher O'Keeffe secured a temporary High Court injunction requiring Kilkenny County Council to stop work at the Greens Bridge site and at the site of a footbridge currently being constructed beneath the Ossory Bridge at Nore Linear Park, Kilkenny. The bridges are 2km apart.

The matter returned before the High Court today as lawyers representing Mr O'Keeffe sought to have the injunction orders kept in place pending the full hearing of the action against the Council.

Mr O’Keeffe (35) of Greenfields, James Park, Freshford, Kilkenny claims the construction of temporary access causeways in the River Nore, done to aid the building of the bridges, are causing environmental harm to the river. It is also claimed the causeways could increase the risk of flooding.

The claims are denied by Kilkenny Co Council. They want the High Court to dismiss the injunction. They say the delay on the construction work is costing it almost €20,000 per day. They also state that there is a narrow window of less than twenty days to complete the work.

Work cannot continue beyond that point as it may interfere with salmon spawning in the Nore, the Council claimed.

This evening following the conclusion of submissions from both parties Ms Justice Bronagh O'Hanlon reserved her decision on whether to continue the injunctions. The Judge said she needed "a little time" to consider the issues raised in the application.

The Judge said she hopes to give judgment on the application for an interlocutory injunction next week.

Mr O’Keeffe, represented by barrister Niall Handy Bl, has brought an action against the council based on a report by an ecologist saying construction work had to be “urgently restrained” or greater damage would be done to the Nore’s aquatic ecology.

He further claims the causeways directly breach a condition of the consent given by An Bord Pleanála when it gave the Kilkenny County Council permission to construct the bridges.

The council, represented by barrister James Connolly SC, rejects the report which it described as a snapshot of the situation at a certain point earlier this month. It says there is no scientific evidence of any damage being done to the river, and also rejects claims that it has breach the terms of the consent it obtained to construct the bridges. 

Greens Bridge has been the scene of several protests by locals against the construction of a new bridge, which is part of a €10.7m project known as the Kilkenny Central Access Scheme. Protesters believe the project will damage Kilkenny’s medieval heritage. The council says the bridge is necessary for the economic development of the city.

Mr O Keeffe is opposed to the construction of the new bridge at Greens Bridge and has participated in peaceful protests near the construction site.

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