Tuesday 21 May 2019

Supreme Court refuses to stop works on two Kilkenny bridges over the River Nore

The protest in Kilkenny over the construction of a new bridge
The protest in Kilkenny over the construction of a new bridge

By Saurya Cherfi

The Supreme Court today refused to stop works being carried out on two bridges over the River Nore in Kilkenny city.

Chief Justice Susan Denham said  that the balance of convenience for the public interest lay in refusing the application made by local man Christopher O’Keefe.

Mr O’Keefe claimed environmental harm was being caused to the river due to a new bridge being constructed near Greens Bridge and a new footbridge being constructed beneath the Ossory Bridge at Nore Linear Park.

Mr O’Keefe (35) of Greenfields, James Park, Freshford, Co Kilkenny, had been granted temporary injunctions by the High Court earlier this month ordering Kilkenny County Council to stop working at the bridges.

The injunctions had been lifted last week after a High Court judge found there was no evidence of environmental damage being done where the two bridges were being constructed.

Mr O’Keefe claimed the construction of what he described as temporary access causeways with limestone in the river, to create a working platform for heavy machinery, was causing environmental harm to the river.

He claimed a report by an ecologist stated damage would be done to the Nore’s aquatic ecology, including the freshwater pearl mussel, and to various species in the river, which is part of the Special Area of Conservation, if the construction work was not “urgently restrained.”

Chief Justice Denham, Mr Justice William M. McKechnie and Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne heard that no appropriate assessment had allegedly been conducted before the stones were placed in the river.

Nuala Butler, SC, counsel for O’Keefe, said the stones should not have been put in the river and an assessment would be needed before their removal in order to assess the environmental effect.

Mr O’Keefe claimed the causeways breached a condition of the consent given by An Bord Peanála to authorise the construction of the bridges. He also claimed they could increase the risk of flooding.

Kilkenny County Council denied that no proper assessment had taken place. It claimed the methodology adopted had been part of a consultation which had been publicly disclosed and to which no member of the public had raised any objection.

The council claimed it had constructed containment structures, in accordance with the consent obtained from An Bord Pleanála. These were to be removed once the work at the bridges was completed.

There was no scientific or engineering evidence of any damage having been caused to the river.

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