“THERE’S something for everyone” in the approved schedule for works for this year in West Clare. That was the view of Councillor Gabriel Keating who proposed the approval of the multi-million euro plan at the district committee meeting last week.
An increase in almost all funding streams will see a total of more than €48 million being invested in roads infrastructure across Clare this year.
Major projects earmarked for funds in West Clare include Blake’s Corner in Ennistymon. Funding of €970,000 allocated to Clare will be funnelled mainly towards The West Clare Greenway.
There have also been increases in the funds available to West Clare for road improvement and maintenance this year.
A total of 13 bridges in the district will be refurbished and five safety improvement schemes will be progressed. Under the heading of climate mitigation, eight schemes will be advanced in West Clare, mainly in the Kilrush Local Electoral Area (LEA).
Outlining the schedule for 2022, Senior Engineer John Leahy said the county would benefit from the biggest allocation since the motorway was built in Clare.
He noted that, last year, 229 kilometres of local reads got some kind of intervention. This year, the proposal is to tackle 246km.
“This has been asked for by all rural councillors,” Mr Leahy noted. The senior engineer outlined that around 6.5% of the county’s roads network had interventions last year and the hope for 2022 is to get that figure to 7%. “We need to aim for 10% year-on-year,” he said. “We have such a large network in this county.”
Keen interest was expressed by members in the allocation for the Community Improvement Scheme (CIS). “Under the CIS €142,000 was allocated in 2021,” Mr Leahy explained.
“This year that figure will be €726,000. These grants will spread across all rural Municipal Districts and will roll out over the next two months.”
The schedule of works will see €2.5 million spent on restoration improvement works in the Ennistymon LEA this year, an increase of €0.1 million on last year.
In Kilrush, the figure spent will be €3.1 million, an increase of €0.2 million on 2021. In terms of restoration maintenance, €761,000 will be spent in Ennistymon, while €900,000 will got to the Kilrush area.
Funding for climate mitigation projects has increased “substantially” for West Clare, the meeting also heard. The figure was €12.7 million last year, up to €13.5 million for 2022.
Outlining the spending plan for Active Travel, Senior Executive Engineer John Gannon said the full allocation will depend on the amount required by the various projects.
“A lot of the heavy lifting was done last year,” he noted. “While we get an allocation every year, it’s a five-year programme. A lot of great work has been done in West Clare and more is planned. It should be a very busy year in West Clare.”
District Cathaoirleach, Councillor Cillian Murphy complimented all involved in the works schedule.
“As councillors, we get it in the necks all the time over roads,” he said. “In this case, we can see the work that’s done and I suppose there is never enough money really.”
Councillor Gabriel Keating, who proposed the adoption of the work schedule, described the proposal as “fantastic”. “The roads are improving,” he said.”
Councillor Ian Lynch thanked the roads engineers and staff for their work in all weathers. On the subject of the N68, the main arterial route into the Kilrush area, Councillor Lynch said the feeling locally is that more pavement works are needed. He noted a statement from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) that no more work is required.
Councillor Joe Garrihy thanked all of the West Clare district staff and noted the pressure they are under to deliver services, especially during the tourist season.
“I welcome the CIS funds and climate allocation, but would like clarity on the LIS (Local Improvement Scheme), because this is a bugbear with over 200 roads on the list,” he said.
“There is great work in terms of Active Travel and the results will be evident in the coming years.”
Councillor PJ Kelly thanked staff for their on-call work in response to emergencies.
“I have never seen such a great response,” he said. “There is one road in Labasheeda that is not included for works and it doesn’t have a road number and I would ask that a committee be put together to assign numbers to roads.”
Councillor Shane Talty thanked staff for the schedule of works.
“The Active Travel Fund is particularly welcome because that’s an incredibly visible scheme,” he said.
“It’s a huge, visible statement of the work being done.” The Ennistymon man also welcomed the increase in fundings for the CIS and sought clarity on the allocation for Blake’s Corner, asking if a €2 million allocation for 2021 was a separate sum from the figure of €2 million for this year. He also raised concerns over the vulnerability of people walking in areas without public lighting.
“I acknowledged that it requires a lot of money, but we need to start the conversation,” he said.
Councillor Lynch noted the pressure to find contractors and asked if there are enough resources available to deliver the works schedule.
Councillor Murphy asked for clarification on what works would be done in Kilkee this year.
Responding to councillors’ questions, Mr Leahy noted that works on the pavements on the N68 are still possible.
“TII chose its own priority area on the N68 and allocated €260,000 for overlay,” he said.
“The Department of Transport allows the Council to choose its own priority areas. During the year, it will consider applications of up to €200,000 for areas where the Council feels interventions are needed. We will decide ourselves what’s needed. Funding does become available as the year progresses.”
Mr Leahy said that under the CIS, the backlog of applications was cleared in 2020. “In 2021, there was a small fund of €142,000,” he said. “That’s now up to €600,000 and a to will go to West Clare. We will have more detail in the next couple of months.”
Mr Leahy acknowledged that there are 200 roads on the LIS list.
“We got €500,000 last year, the funds now come from Rural Development,” he said. “This increased with a second allocation to €800,000. This year, we expect a sizeable allocation, but have no announcement yet.”
Mr Gannon responded to a question from Councillor Murphy on works at Minister’s Place in Kilkee.
“The funds this year are in recognition of the fact that the project is live,” he said.
“A feasibility report has been done and we have settled on a design. We are waiting for a safety audit to be done and understand it is to happen in the next number of weeks. Then, we’ll do a Part Eight application and go to tender. I’m unsure if work will start this year, but it’s on the card. TII are committed.”
In repose to a question from Councillor Keating, Mr Gannon confirmed that there won’t be a roundabout at the site.
“It will be a modified junction,” he said. “Lands bought around The Barracks will be incorporated. We will improve pedestrian facilities, as well as cycleway connectivity. We will release the drawings after a discussion with TII.”
The schedule was proposed by Councillor Gabriel Keating and seconded by Councillor Joe Garrihy.