PARTEEN residents took matters into their own hands this week and blocked a local road, in a bid to halt earthworks for road widening planned by Clare County Council.
While householders from Kilquane, Parteen are not opposed in principle to the project, they claimed they were forced to take the drastic ‘illegal action’ because of an alleged lack of adequate consultation and detailed plans from the council.
Two vehicles were placed across the road on Monday morning where Clare County Council contractors were scheduled to start earthworks and tree felling of about 600m to make way for the proposed road widening, with fencing on the north bank.
Residents also questioned why the council have included the road from the entrance of Limerick Blow Moulding (LIMBO Ltd) in phase one and not the road west of the plant to Parteen School, which they claim is far more dangerous and was the scene of a number of serious incidents.
Householders Mike Naughton and Tony O’Farrell, who said they represented residents on the road, are frustrated that a meeting between the two parties was only granted last Thursday, nine months after issues were first raised with the authority last November.
The council stated its plan is to carry out the main civil works in August, with the road making, drainage and kerbing to be done in September or October. Contact will be made with the residents in this regard by the council or its contractor, while local and emergency access will be maintained at all times.
In response to representations from Deputy Willie O’Dea, the council estimates the overall cost of upgrading the road is over €300,000, most of which it hopes to complete this year.
The council stated it had advertised its intention to close the road in August. On agreeing a programme with the appointed contractor, the council pointed out it would then be in a position to give better details of the construction phases.
“The road closure notification and process has been advanced in order to allow the contractor to complete the works in the most expedient and safe manner possible, while minimising the extent of impact on residents, road users, schools and business.
“All landowners whose lands are being directly impacted have been notified and are agreeable to works. For residents who will be impacted by access restrictions, the council first need confirmation of the contractors’ work programme and method statement before it can give the most accurate details,” the council outlined.
Residents contacted the Department of the Environment, who apparently advised them it is against regulations in the Wildlife Act to fell hedgerows and trees from the beginning of March to August. However, the council pointed out roadworks are exempt from these regulations.
The residents prepared a safety questionnaire to verify that a site-specific safety plan had been put in place to ensure they were not exposed to danger, particularly from the “live gas line”. They were advised they were fully compliant with the safety requirements as outlined in the questionnaire but documentation was not made available to validate this.
Mr Naughton and resident Tony Mulqueen highlighted a number of concerns at a meeting with a council engineer at the South-East Clare Electoral Area offices in Westbury on Thursday. They claimed the road widening was scheduled to start the following Monday without adequate consultation and detailed drawings of the proposed new road layout.
Mr Naughton confirmed he received one A3 sized drawing from the council, which he claimed gave a “scant outline” of the road widening proposal on Friday. He asked the authority to postpone the start of this work until all the contractors are in place for the entire project.
Councillor Michael Begley said he had received an assurance that detailed drawings would be provided to residents as soon as an agreement is reached with a landowner and expressed his disappointment this was done at the eleventh hour.
While he understands why residents took this action, he felt they could have protested without blocking the road.
Councillor Cathal Crowe, meanwhile, said he was delighted the council had started this road widening project. Although the School Road is classified as a local road of minor status, Councillor Crowe noted its daily usage matches that of a busy suburban or regional route.
“More than 300 pupils are currently enrolled in Parteen National School and most mornings and afternoons the road becomes heavily congested with cars dropping and collecting children. The road is far too narrow for this volume of traffic and things become very chaotic on occassions when trucks from Limerick Blow Moulding (LIMBO Ltd) drive against these traffic flows,” he said.