THE lack of adequate space for pedestrians crossing the existing bridge on a daily basis linking Killaloe and Ballina has been described as the “elephant in the room” in relation to the provision of a new river crossing and bypass.
Bill Morrissey, chartered civil engineer and commercial manager, who appeared on behalf of objectors, claimed the new Shannon Bridge Crossing wouldn’t do anything to resolve safety on the existing bridge for pedestrians, particularly those with buggies and children.
Despite the provision of a report from Michael Punch and Partners in 1996 about the feasibility of widening the bridge, he claimed during an oral hearing on Tuesday that Clare County Council had done nothing to address the problem since then.
Mr Morrissey predicted even if Clare County Council spent between €20 and €50 million on the new scheme, it would do nothing to improve the situation concerning pedestrians who would still use the existing bridge.
“This is the elephant in the room, ye missed it,” he declared.
Barrister Dermot Flanagan, who represents the council, pointed out the Punch Report was a historical document that outlined the situation as it existed in 1996 when the Habitats’ Directive was not in place.
There was no design in place for a new river crossing and no suggestion of a Killaloe Bypass.
While this report was referenced in the EIS, he felt it should be considered as background information.
Stating the developer had made provision for pedestrians in the EIS, Mr Flanagan said he would be guided by the inspector in terms of dealing with alternatives to the new crossing, which have already been dealt with in a previous Constraints Study.
Project manager Michael Conroy pointed out the route selection was examined in a study conducted by RPS Consultants.
Mr Morrissey said Mr Conroy couldn’t give any evidence concerning the route selection process, as RPS weren’t present.
Mr Flanagan stated a representative from RPS was available but it was decided he wasn’t required.
Mr Morrissey said he couldn’t understand why a decision was taken to locate the route for the Shannon Bridge Crossing through an SAC, a protected habitat and a residential area where international investors had spent large sums of money providing substantial homes with pleasure grounds and amenities.
“No one here can say why we are doing this,” he said.
Senior planning inspector, Stephen Fay, who is chairing the hearing, asked Mr Morrissey if he was suggesting an alternative or better route.
Mr Morrissey said if he was involved in the design of such a scheme, he would keep well away from residential areas and locations of environmental significance.
Mr Flanagan disagreed with Mr Morrissey’s analysis and noted issues relating to property rights could be dealt with under statutory compensation, while issues concerning the route selection were dealt within the EIS.
Acknowledging that all the council agents were professional people, Mr Morrissey expressed concern there was no one present at the hearing from Clare County Council management to deal with this “mistake”.
Mr Flanagan felt this comment, which he didn’t support, was not worthy of a response.
Mr Fay asked Mr Morrissey could he point out an alternative route or reasons why any route should be considered or dismissed.
Mr Morrissey said he would have provided a report in the EIS on various options within the CPO corridor, which was common practice.
Mr Flanagan stated this wasn’t always the case and noted the developer had provided an EIS on the chosen route.
According to a report completed by Michael Punch and Partners in 1996, a standalone new footbridge completely independent of the existing masonry bridge costing between €720,000 and €1.44 million could be located upstream or downstream of the existing bridge.
The consultants stressed their assessment didn’t purport to provide a detailed technical examination of the proposal and noted this would be the subject of a further report should it be warranted.