Thursday 14 November 2019

Environmental impact now the issue with Ardee bypass proposal

Hubert Murphy

Environmental regulations - rather than observations from local residents and sports clubs - played a key role in the delay of the Ardee N52 bypass it has been revealed.

The latest details arose from a meeting between public representatives and the TII (Transport Infrastructure Ireland).

It now appears that the current planning permission would have to be reviewed under current environmental regulations as the permission is over 5 years old.

Also, a ring fenced funding commitment cannot be given for the project as projects are done on a rolling, year to year, budget.

Local TD, Fergus O'Dowd, has voiced his deep concerns following the meeting with senior officials of Transport Infrastructure Ireland and his Oireachtas constituency colleagues last week.

TII officials appeared at the Oireachtas Transport Committee on the 18th September, and outlined the issue over cul-de-sacs as being paramount in the whole decision, They also named three sports clubs.

'I have now learned that the TII now say that they have based their decision to review the Ardee Bypass Scheme on a number of matters which were not raised with us at the Oireachtas Transport Committee,' Deputy O'Dowd stated.

The environmental regulations is now a main feature, the deputy wondering why it took so long for that to emerge.

'The majority of the correspondence relating to environmental and localised issues were received in 2018 but yet the decision to review was taken late in 2019 . The public spending code was also discussed at length and it was evident that TII officials believe the current scheme would not satisfy the current guidelines.

"This conflicts with the statements made during the Oireachtas Committee in which TII laid the decision solely on issues relating to local junction reconfigurations.

"I have also requested the minutes of all executive boards meeting which refer or relate to matters of the Ardee Bypass review, I was issued with a bill for nearly €3000 from TII for these records which is completely unacceptable and makes a mockery of transparency within a state body.

"TII have undertaken to write to the Louth Oireachtas members with a clear and concise roadmap for the proposed review with targets dates etc. My serious concern is that even if everything goes to plan, it is not looking like a car will journey over the Ardee bypass before 2024 at the earliest,' he stated.

The Cathaoirleach of the Ardee area council, Dolores Minogue, says the whole situation is now turning into a 'fiasco' and has already done nothing to help the community as a whole.

'We have people sitting in cars on the main street and businesses suffering as a result. We need to attract big names to Ardee to provide local, sustainable jobs for people. The bypass is a key to that,' she stated.

'Then we had local residents and clubs asking for some leeway with junctions to prevent cul-de-sacs and to help keep a bond with the town. They made their representations too.'

However, now the need for a environmental study supersedes it all.

'Before we have a public consultation and risk more discourse and debate within the community about the rights and wrongs of the present bypass plan, surely this environmental study needs to be completed. If it finds that there are no problems, then we can work on junction ideas as part of a future design. We have to know if the present route meets all the criteria before we spend more money,' she stated.

'We have to get this bypass issue sorted for the sake of the town and its people.

Other local Oireachtas members have also requested the TII to give them a full project plan in relation to where the bypass now stands. That is likely to be issued very shortly.

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