Tuesday, 11 May 2010
I thank the Office of the Ceann Comhairle for allowing me to raise this matter and the Minister of State for being present.
I speak for the 15,000 people who live in Carrigaline, one of Ireland's largest commuter towns. It was the case some years ago that more people drove to work alone in their cars from Carrigaline than from any other town in the country. When I was a member of Cork County Council for three or four years, I worked on the planning of a western relief road for the town. Much of the zoning and planning permission for the many houses that have been built in Carrigaline, like other parts of the country, was agreed in anticipation of the construction of a western relief road to try to relieve the intense traffic on Main Street in the town. The street in question, which is no more than 8 m wide, was built for a town of 500 or 600 people but now has to cater for a town of 15,000 people. The eastern relief road in the town has worked reasonably well, especially in allowing traffic to flow from Crosshaven to Cork city, but the western side of the town still has no relief road. All the traffic is driven through Main Street, which simply cannot handle it.
A detailed study of the town, which was undertaken in 2006 so that a western relief road could be designed, has been in place for some time. Cork County Council received planning permission from An Bord Pleanála in 2006 to proceed with the road. At the time, the board said that this most important infrastructural development would allow the town to continue to grow and breathe. We had planned to make progress with the project on a public private partnership basis so that a new town centre could be developed for a large urban area outside Cork city, but that project has been halted. As recently as this week the county manager said he was very anxious to move ahead with this road but simply does not have the money to do so. That is why I am raising the issue in the national Parliament. Funding needs to be allocated by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government or the Department of Transport to allow this crucial infrastructure to be built. A partnership between local authority and national funding is required so that the crucial bottleneck in the town of Carrigaline can be alleviated.
I am conscious that I am calling for funds at a time when the Government has none. I do not make that call lightly. This project would pay for itself, however. I live in Carrigaline. My office is on Main Street. More than 30 businesses on the street have gone out of business over the past 18 months. This town needs help. One of the ways the Government can make a significant contribution to the business community and the residents of the town is to provide a share of the funds needed to allow the western relief road to be developed. That will allow the town to grow and breathe and enable businesses to start flourishing again. That, in turn, will produce revenue and jobs for the State. The borrowing of this money can be justified, in my view. It is capital rather than current expenditure. I ask the Minister of State to pass on my appeal to the appropriate senior Minister. We need to make progress by providing funding or allowing Cork County Council to increase its borrowing capacity, so that this infrastructural project can take place. Everything is in place to make it happen, with the exception of the funding.
Áine Brady (Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People and Health Promotion, Department of Health and Children; Minister of State, Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government; Minister of State, Department of Social and Family Affairs; Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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I am responding to the Deputy on behalf of the Minister for Transport, Deputy Noel Dempsey. I thank Deputy Coveney for giving me an opportunity to address this issue in the House. The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on such roads are funded from the resources of local authorities, supplemented by State road grants paid by the Department of Transport. The initial selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is also a matter for the local authority.
On 22 February last, the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, announced the regional and local road grant allocations for 2010. A total of €411.409 million is being provided to local authorities this year for the maintenance and improvement of regional and local roads. In deciding on allocations for this year, the first priority was to ensure the protection of the existing road network, particularly the massive Exchequer investment of €6 billion which this Government has made through the provision of regional and local road grants since 1997. It is important that resources are targeted to address on a priority basis the most urgently required repairs resulting from the extensive damage caused by the prolonged severe weather. Local authorities should carefully reassess their planned road programmes for 2010 with regard to these priorities.
In August 2009, Cork County Council submitted a proposal for funding the land acquisition and construction of this project in 2010 and beyond. The estimated cost of this project is approximately €18.5 million. The Minister recently wrote to Cork County Council on this matter. He is awaiting its response.