Closing Down Passage West?
Businesses, Residents And Councillors Worried About Impact Of Road Closure
Writes Leo McMahon
Closing down sections of the main R610 road through Passage West from July 2nd to early Autumn, to facilitate essential laying by Irish Water and contractor Ward and Burke of sewers as part of the Lower Cork Harbour Main Drainage Project will put businesses in the town at risk and cause massive inconvenience to residents.
This was the warning by members of Cork County Council’s Carrigaline-Ballincollig Municipal District at their meeting on Monday.
Their fears were expressed ahead of two public information meetings with the contractor about this taking place next Tuesday, June 26th at Star of the Sea School, Passage West and Wednesday, June 27th at Scoil Barra Naofa School, Monkstown, both from 6 to 8pm.
Road closure licences have been sought for: 1) Glenbrook Wharf to Lucia Place from Monday, July 2nd to Friday, August 31st and 2) From the Town Hall, Cork Street to Oysterhaven Boats, Toureen in September and October for 40 work days, following completion of the first section. It includes 540 metres of gravity sewer and 11 chambers.
During July alone, Passage West will be marking the opening of its new Maritime Museum and the new Aldi store and will host the County Coastal Rowing Championships. The 223 bus route will also be affected.
Cllr Michael Frick Murphy (SF) had a motion on the agenda and with fellow councillors, voiced shock at what they regarded as the short notice given and lack of consultation with businesses and residents by Irish Water and the contractor since they (the councillors) got a presentation on the project on June 6th.
Cllr Murphy said that local business people he spoke to claimed they were never informed the town centre would be shut down for 40 days and some believed they couldn’t survive if this happened.
‘This is going to be devastating for Passage with the town effectively closed off for four months’, declared Cllr Seamus McGrath (FF). For councillors and then the public to be told of the closure shortly before it’s due to happen wasn’t meaningful engagement. Closure on July 2nd was too early and he urged a re-think.
Cllr Marcia D’Alton (Ind) also complained about lack of consultation. Everyone bought into the scheme overall and had already taken pain but couldn’t live with the town being closed for such a long time.
Initially when works were taking place in Monkstown communications were ‘brilliant’ but now residents and businesses were asking Irish Water ‘why aren’t you talking to us?’ She also queried the effectiveness of working hours from only 9am to 5pm each weekday.
Cllr Eoghan Jeffers (SF) also voiced frustration over the insufficient consultation period. He wondered if work could be done beyond five days a week in order to speed up the project.
Chairperson Mary Rose Desmond (FF) claimed communication on the scheme had collapsed and voiced concern about the everyday lives of and access for the elderly, the vulnerable and businesses.
In attendance with two officials from Ward and Burke was Deaglan Healy of Irish Water who stressed there was no viable alternative to closing the road for a project to stop domestic sewage being discharged illegally for the past 15 years.
Referring to the road closure application, he said: ‘We’ve exhausted all the options and laying a large pipe down the middle of the road in Passage West, involving big machines and boxes is heavy civil engineering, noisy and intrusive. We fully sympathise and appreciate the inconvenience for people living in the vicinity…but we wouldn’t be asking for it if we could avoid it’.
He pointed out that what could have been a three months closure in Back Street was completed in ten days this year using a directional drill and said safety was the number one priority Having outlined the latest work to councillors on June 6th, Mr Healy acknowledged it was a big ask for the people but added: ‘We’ve made a commitment to working with the community and will get invaluable information from the meetings’.
As for the working hours, specialist crews were needed who would be working flat out but their times were limited while compensating businesss for a scheme on a public road would be unprecedented.
Councillors however were still not satisfied. Cllr Murphy felt a public meeting should have taken place before any work started in Passage adding: ‘communication has gone out the window.’
Cllr McGrath wondered how long no other option but closure was known because it was catastrophic to find out in a short timeframe. He believed additional resources must be found to extend working hours. He suggested relief routes using Fair Hill and Canning Place be examined.
Cllr D’Alton pointed out that in addition to the main road there would also be works in Back Street, Cork Road, Harbour Heights, Glenbrook and Monkstown causing disruption. Business people in Passage West were ‘ local heroes’ but total road closure would be intolerable.
Cllr Deirdre Forde (FG) asked if businesses could have rates waived for one year in what was an exceptional case and asked that the chief executive of the council be contacted.
Mr Healy said he would apologise on behalf of Ervia/Irish Water if it was tardy. More specialised crews had been requested from Ward and Burke and if obtained, this could extend the working hours and speed up the work. In reply to Cllr Jeffers, temporary reinstatements to re-open roads daily, he said, would only serve to exacerbate and lengthen the scheme.
He said he took on board all the points made, acknowledged the need to improve communications adding they were only too willing to engage with the community. However, these were the hard yards of the overall scheme and there was no easy way to do this in a confined area.
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