OPPONENTS of the adoption of a controversial €120 million distributor road into the Clare County Development Plan are becoming increasingly concerned that it could get the green light this Friday afternoon.
Judging by the vociferous objections from councillors at a recent council meeting, concerned residents in Parteen were confident that it would not get the required numbers for its adoption into the Clare County Development Plan.
However, councillors who are against this proposal are now fearful that some of their colleagues may change their minds, following a briefing last Thursday conducted by consultants appointed by the council who endorsed the emerging preferred route without any change.
Last week, Clare county councillors decided to defer making a decision on adopting the road into the County Development Plan, following trenchant opposition from a local lobby group. Councillors were given a deadline of July 31 at the council meeting to make a decision on the proposed Northern Distributor Road. No councillor spoke in favour of proceeding with the preferred route option.
Councillors voted by 17 votes to nine to defer a decision for a vote on the contentious route until this Friday. The deferral was proposed by Councillor Pat Burke and seconded by Councillor Tom McNamara.
It is expected that a vote on the preferred route option will take place on Friday afternoon, after another council briefing for members at 12.30pm.
Dividing Parteen in half and building the distributor road through a flood plain on the outskirts of Clonlara remain two of the main stumbling blocks for opponents of the plan.
Councillor Michael Begley, who devised an alternative proposal, which would not have split Parteen, claimed the council and its consultants had ruled out having the boundary of this road about 360m away from the Head Race Canal, despite constructing new houses in Glór na Srutha about 60m away from the waterway.
Councillors were told by the consultants the preferred route could not be moved north and east of its existing route because of concerns expressed by the ESB about a possible negative impact on the future stability of the Head Race Canal.
It has also been claimed that the ESB has asked the council to indemnify any possible loss of life or injury as a result of major damage to the Head Race embankment if the distributor road was situated very close to it, which is likely to leave the authority with a large annual insurance bill.
It was stressed at last Thursday’s briefing that the consultants had no scope to bring the road closer to the Head Race Canal embankment because of the ESB’s concerns.
Councillor Begley had proposed that the consultants should move the existing line east and north to follow the settlement boundary of Parteen, as outlined in the South Clare Plan. Under the council’s plan, the route cuts through two houses near Parteen Co-op and practically follows the line of the high-tension power lines from the Ardnacrusha Power Station.
If this route is approved, it would leave about 20 houses in Parteen east of the new distributor road.
Councillor Begley proposed to bring the co-op and 20 houses inside the distributor road, thus leaving the social fabric of the village intact but this was rejected.
The independent councillor said it is difficult to understand why bringing the boundary of the road about 360m from the Head Race embankment was ruled out without considering a possible engineering solution, such as a major concrete reinforcement.
He confirmed that none of the information provided by the consultants during the briefing on Thursday had convinced him to change his mind.
Acknowledging that all major developments have an adverse impact on some landowners and residents, he warned the preferred route would destroy the livelihoods of some farmers, who would not have the option of relocating, as their existing farm has already been substantially devalued by the indicative lines drawn for the road on maps.
Councillor Cathal Crowe expressed concern that some councillors who were previously opposed to the preferred route are considering changing their minds and felt they could not rely on the same level of support that would have defeated this road at the last meeting.
The Fianna Fáil councillor questioned why the council thought it necessary to host another briefing for councillors at 12.30pm this Friday, yet had ruled out allowing a formal presentation from the Northern Distributor Road Concerned Residents Association before the statutory meeting. The Meelick councillor is planning to invite residents into an informal gathering of councillors earlier that day.
He claimed there is now a “hard sell” to try and convince councillors to change their minds and support the road, rather than leaving them to arrive at their own decision.
Councillor PJ Ryan said the consultants had facilitated the ESB, swans and salmon but forgot about people who are adversely impacted by this road.
Councillor Ryan proposed an underpass with public lighting and closed-circuit television could be constructed to avoid Parteen village being split.
Having attended public consultation meetings in the Radisson Hotel, Councillor Ryan claimed there was too much passing the buck by council planners and the consultants.
At last week’s county council meeting, senior planner, Gordon Daly warned if councillors decided not to adopt the variation, it had the “potential to end the project for now” and noted the project may not go ahead in the future.