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NRA to seek planning for Ennis salt depot

ENNIS is set to play a key part in plans by the National Roads Authority to maintain the country’s motorways during the winter months.
It was revealed this week that the NRA are set to seek part eight planning permission for the development of a salt storage depot on the outskirts of Ennis.
The depot, which would be at the former site office for the Ennis Bypass at the Tulla Road Interchange, would be used to store up to 6,500 tones of salt. This would be used by the NRA for the maintenance of motorways, not just in Clare, but throughout the region during the winter as part of a nationwide strategy by the NRA.
At a meeting of Ennis county councillors this week, senior engineer Tom Tiernan outlined that the NRA have decided to take over the managing the winter maintenance of motorways nationwide.
“They will be setting up depots in locations across the country and the former site office of the Ennis Bypass has been identified as a location. The NRA are asking for part eight planning permission to be submitted to facilitate this in the near future. The salt will be used not just for Clare but for adjoining counties and there will be a storage capacity of up to 6,500 tonnes,” he said.
Clare County Council are currently preparing for the coming winter months, with Mr Tiernan assuring that the county has enough salt to cope with another freeze on our roads.
According to the local authority’s Winter Maintenance Programme there will be capacity for an estimated 3,500 tonnes of salt for the county this winter, compared with 600 tonnes for last winter.
This is due to the “very significant” expansion of the county’s central salt depot at Beechpark which according to Mr Tiernan has been “working very well.”
“This should be enough to look after the requirements of the entire county, it is a huge improvement on last year,” said Mr Tiernan.
The length of road that will be salted over the winter has increased from 599 kilometres to 706 kilometres.
He also outlined that over the last three years, the council have been paying €1.1 million out of their own resources for the maintenance of the roads. “There have been top-ups from the Government and the NRA but following the severe weather we have had, the funding hasn’t been enough,” he commented.
The Winter Maintenance Programme was put before meetings of Ennis West and Ennis East Electoral Area Councillors.
At the meeting of Ennis West councillors, Councillor Tom McNamara urged that funding be put aside to help communities deal with salting roads themselves. Mr Tiernan told him this could be difficult considering the amount of funding currently available to the council and he praised local communities for taking the initiative last year.
Councillor Brian Meaney argued that the county could end up with a surplus of salt. Mr Tiernan responded that the local authority are moving towards a concept where there would be a “comfortable capacity” in advance of any severe weather.
Councillor James Breen raised concerns about the NRA “taking over our roads”. At the meeting of Ennis East councillors, Councillor Tommy Brennan questioned the necessity of the NRA planned depot saying, “All they are doing is replicating a service that is already there and keeping themselves in jobs.” He suggested small salting equipment be purchased for use in the town’s housing estates.
Councillor Johnny Flynn also voiced his concerns about the NRA plan, outlining the proposed venue, under the ownership of the county council, could be used as a potential site for a secondary school.
The meeting heard that while the site is owned by the council, it is an area of surplus land left over from the work on the bypass and if it was to be sold the money would be given back to the NRA.
Councillor Paul Murphy suggested that local farmers could help with salting the roads by using manure spreaders. This was supported by Councillor Sonny Scanlan who said, “We are there to help if the county needs it”. Mr Tiernan responded that the council are open to discuss to any element of the community who feel they can give any assistance.
Councillor Pat Daly asked if the council could take on extra staff to deal with winter maintenance. He was informed by Mr Tiernan that the staff embargo would prevent this.

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