IRELAND will be building bypasses in the future rather than new motorways, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan has declared.
“The switch has been made and it’s agreed in Government,” the leader of the Green Party insisted.
He told the Seanad today that the days of new motorways that “go out and out and out” were over — while towns across the country had to be revived.
Speaking on the Climate Bill, Mr Ryan said: “We have to do a National Development Plan review. And we have to start aligning our capital investment with our climate plans.
“The key changes will firstly be in terms of roads,” Mr Ryan revealed.
“I think we'll be switching to large numbers of bypasses, because that actually helps us in the climate front.
“The more bypasses we have of towns, the more those towns can revive. We bring life back into the centre. Having people living in the centre of the town is not only good in terms of addressing the housing crisis, but it means we don't have to build out and out, and we don't have to pour all the cement for the new pavements and the new water management systems, and the new schools, and the new everything that goes out and out and out.”
That expansion was had long been happening while the centre of Irish towns, including the centre of cities like Dublin, were “dying,” he said.
“That doesn't make sense,” Mr Ryan declared to Senators. “The climate-clever way is to bring life back to the centre. You can walk to school, walk to church walk to the pub, walk to the shops.
“We can use the existing buildings — we have stunning 19th century market towns. So rather than letting them become dilapidated and remain vacant, which large numbers of towns are at the moment, revive them.”
Tipperary town was one example of a town that was suffering, he said, with 30pc vacancy. He repeated the figure, without making clear whether he was talking about retail premises alone.
“There's 245,000 vacant houses in the country. In tackling the housing crisis, we can get families back in to buy and refurbish, and then support them in using those houses,” Mr Ryan said.
“Then use all the existing infrastructure and have a much more attractive community and public realm.”
Mr Ryan said he was talking about practically every town in the country, but in the case of Tipperary alone, “it is Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmel, Bansha, Cahir, Tipperary town and I could keep going up through the country — you all know the towns across this country that could benefit from that kind of approach.”
Mr Ryan then reiterated: “So, yes, it’s lots of bypasses that we should focus on now.
“The switch has been made and it’s agreed in Government. Twenty per cent funding is going to active travel, and two-to-one (ratio of spending) in public transport to road, because as well as those bypasses what we need is investment in sustainable active travel, and in my mind bus and rail.”