Large tracts of land in the area could be subjected to a “planning freeze” for at least 10 months due to the constraints imposed by the proposed Northern Distributor Road, local county councillors have claimed.
Councillor Michael Begley stated consultants preparing documentation for Phase Two of the Limerick Northern Distributor Road will not release any more land from the so-called “frozen corridor” until the preferred route is confirmed.
This “frozen corridor”, in planning terms, includes a large slice of the Meelick and Clonlara parishes and covers large tracts of land between the Head Race Canal and the River Shannon.
While Councillors Michael Begley and Pascal Fitzgerald are urging affected parties in South-East Clare to attend the public consultation meeting in the Radisson Hotel, Ennis Road, Limerick, on Wednesday from 3pm-8pm, they are extremely concerned about the impact of the sterilsation of large portions of land.
During a brief session with county councillors last Friday, Councillor Begley was told by a consultant that Clare County Council could not give a guarantee any more land could be released from the “frozen corridor” over the coming months for planning permission purposes until the preferred route was confirmed.
Councillor Begley explained the public consultation period will last up to February 18 and then the consultants will need a period of time to make possible changes to the emerging route. Once this is complete, an emerging route will be confirmed, which could be challenged with a request for an oral hearing, which would be handed over to An Bord Pleanála leading to further delays.
He estimates planning permissions in the affected areas could be delayed until next October or November.
However, senior engineer Tom Tiernan refuted the claims stating, “each planning application within the study area has been reviewed on its own merits in terms of risk to the Northern Distributor Road”.
“These submissions will then be considered in depth with a view to confirming the Preferred Route Corridor (PRC) as soon as possible thereafter,” he added.
“The Preferred Route Corridor to be confirmed will be the same as the emerging PRC to be revealed on Wednesday or a variation of same depending on the submissions to be made to CCC during the four-week public consultation (PC) period.
“While it isn’t possible to determine at this time when the PRC will be confirmed, I would hope that it will be possible to do so within six to eight weeks of the end of the Public Consultation period.
“Once the PRC is confirmed, the planning restrictions to which the councillors are referring will be confined to the route corridor itself.
“Whether there may be any variations to this will depend on the nature of individual planning applications and evolving design details such as in the vicinity of proposed junctions and existing approach roads – while at the same taking account of route related public consultation submissions.
“As always, every planning application will be considered based on its own merits. There is no provision for An Bord Pleanála to become involved in the process – either in the lead in to or in the aftermath of confirmation of the Preferred Route Corridor.”
Once completed, the Northern Distributor Road project will link Coonagh with Parteen and Ardnacrusha before crossing the River Shannon to the North of the University of Limerick and onwards to the Old Limerick/Dublin Road. The project is being led by Clare County Council, in conjunction with Limerick City Council and Limerick County Council.
The development of the emerging Preferred Route Corridor follows a previous Public Consultation in June 2011, at which a number of feasible route corridor options were proposed.
Phase Two of the Limerick Northern Distributor Road is proposed to extend from the docking point of the Coonagh Knockalisheen Scheme on Knockalisheen Road, north-west of Limerick City, to the R445 (Dublin Road/old N7). The Coonagh Knockalisheen Scheme is Phase One of the Limerick Northern Distributor Road scheme and was approved by An Bord Pleanála in September 2011.
Clare County Council senior engineer, Tom Tiernan said one of the key aims of the Limerick Northern Distributor Road is to promote balanced regional development in Limerick City and Environs, South Clare and the Region in general.
“It is proposed to provide a transport link between the eastern and western fringes of Limerick City via South County Clare to facilitate economic development in this region, resulting in improved connectivity between residential areas and areas of employment and educational opportunity,” explained Mr Tiernan.
“Enhancement of access to the National Technological Park and University of Limerick are important considerations in this regard, as poor accessibility within this area of the north of the city has constrained inward investment thus forming a barrier to economic development to date,” he said.
“Information on the emerging Preferred Route Corridor for Phase Two will be on display with local authority personnel and representatives of Roughan & O’Donovan Consulting Engineers available to answer questions. All comments received at the consultation will be recorded and there will be a further four-week period during which members of the public will be able to make submissions to Clare County Council,” he added.
Views expressed during the consultation exercise will be considered in the context of the emerging Preferred Route Corridor for the scheme. Design of the Limerick Northern Distributor Road (Phase Two) will progress based on the corridor to be confirmed following the public consultation process, leading to the publication of an Environmental Impact Statement and Compulsory Purchase Order in due course. The final determination of the planning process will rest with An Bord Pleanála.