Thursday, 16 February 2012
The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is a statutory function of each road authority, in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on such roads are a matter for the relevant local authority to be funded from its own resources supplemented by State road grants.
The Limerick northern distributor road involves two phases. The first is the Coonagh-Knockalisheen road. This phase is part of the Limerick regeneration plan and has progressed to the stage whereby An Bord Pleanála has approved the project. Limerick City Council has been allocated €2 million this year to advance the project.
The second phase would involve an extension of the road to tie in with the R445. This element of the scheme was proposed by the local authority concerned, Clare County Council, and is supported by Limerick City Council and Limerick County Council. This second phase is currently at route selection stage and I understand the preferred route corridor has been out for public consultation. This public consultation period has been extended until 12 March during which members of the public will be able to make submissions to Clare County Council. I encourage members of the public to make their views known through this process.
This project is part of a long-term plan for economic development for Limerick city and its environs within County Clare. It is important to complete the route selection stage of the project in order to preserve a route corridor in the relevant local authority plans. This will enable the council to progress this project in the future. However, I should state it is unlikely the scheme will progress any further than route selection for some time.
I remind Deputies of the rules on Other Questions. There are two minutes for the Minister's initial reply and four minutes overall for supplementary questions, with the limit of one minute per supplementary question.
I welcome the Minister's clarity on this issue. Phase 2 of the Limerick northern distributor road is causing considerable concern in my constituency and that of Limerick East. There seems to be a groundswell of opposition to the continuation of the project. I understand there was a march at the weekend. People in Deputy O'Donnell's constituency of Limerick East have strong objections.
There is concern in my constituency from people who will be impacted negatively, particularly members of the farming community. They are concerned because they cannot plan for the future. The Government is not in a position to identify whether the road will proceed. Lands will be sterilised, effectively making them valueless. This is putting farmers in the difficult position of not being able to plan for the future development of their farms.
I ask the Minister to consult Oireachtas Members from the region to try to resolve this matter. If we continue to progress along the preferred route that is now emerging it will impact on the lives and families of far too many people. I ask the Minister to begin a review process at his earliest convenience.
This is an issue of major concern to local people. There are two elements. There is a need for person-to-person consultation between Clare County Council, which is the lead authority, and those living on the route involved in steering groups. I ask the Minister to do what he can to ensure consultation takes place, in terms of meeting steering groups and providing details on the constraints involved. People in Parteen and Lisnagry are concerned.
The purpose of route selection is to allow people to prepare for the future. A route is identified and land is set aside for construction in order that the road can be built in due course. It is not and should not be my role to plan regional roads from No. 44 Kildare Street. It is the role of local authorities, in this case Clare County Council. A planning process is in place. I expect the county council to listen to the views of people in local areas and engage with them actively and constructively to determine the best route which can satisfy everyone. I will not become the first Minister in the history of the State to select routes for regional roads. It is something that has to be dealt with locally. It is my strong view that consultation should take place with people affected by the local authorities and the officials concerned.
The Minister would not be the first in the history of the State to enter into dialogue with interested parties to understand their concerns. The project involves Government money allocated by the Minister which will be used to develop the road. People would like to have an understanding of the importance of the project from the Minister's perspective and when or if the road will be completed. It would be useful to have a dialogue with the Minister and interest groups in the region.
I do not have a difficulty with receiving a delegation from the region but I will be telling it exactly what I told the Deputy, namely that there are legal and planning processes. The authority is Clare County Council and it will select the route. Eventually the matter will go to An Bord Pleanála. At no point will the selection of the route or whether the road has planning permission be my decision.
I welcome the Minister's comments that constructive dialogue should take place between the local authority, Clare County Council and people living on the route. I welcome that we can have a meeting with the Minister. The views of the people living in the area should be made loud and clear.