THE decision by An Bord Pleanala to refuse planning permission for the Adare bypass has dealt a body-blow to Adare, to Limerick County Council and to plans to develop Adare as a linch-pin for tourism in the West Limerick area.
But the reverberations are being felt further afield in Kerry, where there are fears that the traffic bottle-neck at Adare will have a negative impact on their tourism industry.
Meanwhile, Limerick County Council has said it is disappointed at the decision but has been reluctant to respond to An Bord Pleanala’s charge that the selected route was unsuitable.
“We need to consider the Bord’s decision with the National Roads Authority. We need to consider in detail the outcome of the Bord’s decision before we can come back with any proposal or recommendation,” Paul Crowe, director of transport said at a meeting of Adare area councilors this Monday
He was however unable to spell out what ramifications, if any, the Bord Pleanala decision would have for planning applications near the selected route, where the land has been “sterilised” for a number of years now. And he indicated it was too early yet to say what changes or amendments would need to be made to the Adare local area plan or to the county development plan, which include the bypass proposal.
Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan has requested urgent meetings with the NRA and with the Department of Transport in a bid to look at alternatives as quickly as possible. But he was critical of the delay by An Bord Pleanala in reaching its verdict. “They were sitting on this for more than a year, and it didn’t take a year to reach this decision,” he said, arguing that a progress report or interim report earlier on might have helped the situation. There should be a statutory time-frame for projects such as the bypass, he continued. But he stressed the urgency of getting everybody around the table to select a new route. “There can be no funding without a route,” he said.
The first discussion about a bypass for Adare goes back almost 20 years when a northern route was suggested. However, it was to be 2005 and another report, commissioned by Limerick County Council, before the project gathered steam again. This report came down on the side of a northern route but this decision was reviewed – and changed – in 2009.
Two factors contributed to the change in route, council engineer Tim Fitzgerald explained to the Limerick Leader. One was the extension of the Special Area of Conservation up the Maigue as far as the bridge in Adare. The second was the plan to develop a motorway from Limerick to Cork. As a consequence, routing the bypass through an SAC was a non-runner and a southern bypass, linking in to the motorway, was proposed as being shorter and less expensive. The selected southern route had its objectors and An Bord Pleanala held an oral meeting on this and on the M20 project in July 2010.
However, the M20 project fell off the list of national infrastructure projects late last year, sparking fears about the Adare bypass. Last week, those fears, unfortunately, were realised.