Monday 20 May 2019

Council officials defend decision on lengthy closure of busy road

Urgency needed in finding solutions to failed structure beside road for residents

The road which is closed at Terrerath
The road which is closed at Terrerath

David Looby

The decision to close a busy road in Terrerath was defended by council officials at the monthly meeting of New Ross Municipal District.

The road was closed on Wednesday, meaning local residents are now using a different route, adding three kilometres to their journeys on a neighbouring narrow country road.

A survey was carried out on the castle by Wexford County Council and it was deemed Tellarought (Terrerath) Castle to be a dangerous structure. The Norman castle which stands on privately owned land could collapse at any time, but is most likely going to collapse within the next decade. Cllr Martin Murphy said: 'The key question is how long will the road be closed.'

The 10m tower is situated two metres from the road, which is used to access the Wexford road and John F Kennedy Arboretum, along with local dwellings. Cllr Murphy said the road was due to be assessed some time ago. 'A very large, unstable building is located up close to the road. The appropriate action is being taken. The question is how can we speed up the response. Three reports have been done on it and they have all pointed out how dangerous it is. The local people are inconvenienced a lot more than the people going to the arboretum in their leisure time.'

Cllr Murphy said farmers, in particular, are going to be badly affected.

Cllr Willie Fitzharris asked why councillors weren't made aware of the issue until a few days before the road was closed.

'It's embarrassing to hear it at Mass. People are ringing us up and asking why did they elect us. I think it's catastrophic for farmers and local people.'

He said the minor road alternative may not be fit for traffic.

'It's a very serious issue. Is there any consultant with experience to restrain the structure and maybe keep half of the road open or widen it at the other side.

'It's very unacceptable to close a road for two years. If people are going to sow corn they are going to have to travel six miles - to get to their own field over the road. This needs to be done in a timely fashion.'

Cllr Michael Sheehan said he is opposed to the closure of the road. 'The castle has been there for umpteen years and there has never been an issue.'

He said the agencies who should be looking after the tower have run a mile from similar problems in the past, like with Mount Garrett Castle on the ring road of New Ross.

'You can't have a situation where the road is closed for two to four years. We are letting them off the hook by closing the road. It's their responsibility to maintain and upkeep that.'

Cllr Larry O'Brien said it is very unfair on local residents to close the road.

'It's the through road to Ballinaboola and Wexford town. Anyone from that side of the parish of Horeswood or Campile uses it go to Ballinaboola and Wexford.'

He said more warning should have been given to people.

'There are a lot of heavy goods vehicles using that road and they can't use the bypass coming in.'

Cllr O'Brien said all councillors should have been made aware a meeting was held on the matter in Terrerath on the previous Friday night.

'We can't close the road for one to two years. A public meeting is needed in Terrerath as soon as possible. I don't think we realise the amount of traffic that is on the road.'

Cllr Anthony Connick said all councillors have been getting calls about the road closure.

Cllr Fitzharris called for the bypass roads that are finished in the area to be opened to traffic to help alleviate the problem for local residents, but was told by Director of Services for roads Eamonn Hore that Transport Infrastructure Ireland are against the idea and want to open the bypass in its entirety once the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Bridge is open to traffic later this year.

'It would be an enormous help for the easing of traffic. It might be something to be considered,' Cllr Fitzharris said.

Senior Executive Engineer Eilis Furlong apologised for not letting councillors know about the road closure well in advance, adding that, as it was an emergency situation, decisions were taken quickly.

She said Cllr Murphy brought the matter to her attention on Friday night and a sign was erected to alert people to the road closure. 'We got a lot of feedback. People didn't realise it was closing,' she said. She said meetings were held with some local landowners and the local priest announced the road closure at Mass.

'The diversion route isn't massive; the detour route is 3km. It's not terribly onerous. I know it's not ideal. There has been a survey on the detour road. It is narrow in parts, but it's about the same width as the other road. This is a public safety matter. It needs to be done as we have been informed the castle is at risk to public safety. If it collapses and we hadn't done something we'd be going back to the public saying it should have been closed before.'

Ms Furlong said the castle stands right up against the ditch, adding that when part of Mount Garrett tower collapsed stones were thrown three metres and more out from the castle. 'In Terrerath that would be onto the side of the road where cars are and people.'

District manager Sinead Casey said local residents alerted the council to the problem initially. 'It was surveyed and it's a private structure on private lands. It's not in our control and remedies were forwarded to the owner for actions to be taken.'

She said ivy on the castle was holding the edifice together. The ivy is now dead which is of huge concern and the structure has deteriorated over the last few months. We are trying to come up with a suitable remedy but we have to think of the public's general safety.'

The council will have to foot the bill for a survey of the castle.

Cllr Murphy said farmers will be seriously inconvenienced at silage cutting time, adding: 'All the people living in the Campile area use that road. New Ross Municipal District needs to put all their weight behind getting a fast solution.'

Senior Executive Engineer Dan McCartan said: 'I was one of the first people to look at the castle and I made a recommendation that it's unsafe. I don't think any other decision could be taken. The building is like a tube. There is an unsupported column on the road side and there is a window in the middle which is falling down through the centre. From a structural point of view it has already failed. It really needs to be rebuilt.'

He said high winds or really hot weather could cause the tower to collapse quickly.

'The fact that the ivy has died means the roots are dying, opening up joints letting more weathering take place which will accelerate the failure of the structure. It could stand for another ten years but you just don't know how long it's going to last.'

Mr McCartan said people need to sit down and go methodically through the options, urging a long-term solution. 'Maybe take it down to a lower level.'

Fencing is being erected to ensure people stay away from the castle.

Cllr Larry O'Brien said securing Mount Garrett tower has cost the council a lot of money. 'For a solution here this is going to take a long, long time and an awful lot of money to fix.'

He called for the road to be reconfigured, saying it might be a cheaper option in the long run.

'We might be able to get the road up quicker; to repair the castle is going to take two years.'

Mr Hore said: 'It's easy to understand people's disappointment and even the anger. The report says catastrophic collapses have occurred on buildings in similar conditions. I asked if we could open half the road and was told no.'

Mr Hore said over the coming weeks a plan has to be devised, adding that ministerial consent is needed to carry out works on the structure.

'The absolute correct decision was taken, there is no doubt about that. This came up seven years ago and again two years ago. It as deteriorated over the last year and six months so the correct decision as taken. From a roads point of view I would prefer not to close the road.'

'We need to stay on top of this,' Cllr Fitzharris said. 'If it's going to be taken down, why not take it down now and rebuild it in the future whenever it's possible. There is no point in deciding that in two years time.'

Cllr Sheehan said the council should write to Minister of State for Public Works Kevin (Boxer) Moran, seeking immediate funding. 'There are business out there who will be feeling the heat over this. The agencies that are responsible should be brought to the table to sort this out quickly.'

James Lavin of the council's planning section said: 'It's a national monument so the onus is on the landowner to maintain the structure which is not going to happen due to the costs involved. This is a national issue as there is no mechanism for these really important heritage monuments when they are on private land and they can't look after it.'

New Ross Standard