Fine Gael TD Michelle Mulherin has cautioned the elected members of Ballina Town Council on its decision to dismiss out of hand the work of the Road Design Office at Mayo County Council in finding an alternative route for the N26. Dep Mulherin said this week: “It must be remembered that up until the decision of An Bord Pleanála to refuse to confirm the CPO on the N26 Stage 2 (Mount Falcon to Bohola Road ) in February 2010 the construction of that road was a priority for the county. Mayo County Council and all stakeholders were sent back to the drawing board to find an alternative route for the road. Except that was not possible for some time because, despite promises of support to address the predicament given by the previous government, no funding whatsoever was allocated to allow the council to begin the work of assessing and addressing the concerns of An Bord Pleanála and funding a new route. In effect the project was confined to the scrapheap under Fianna Fail.”
The first time Dáil deputy went on to say: “After a mammoth effort on my part I was delighted to secure funding for the council to begin planning work again for the road in 2012 and 2013.
This culminated last Christmas with the Road Design Office placing on public consultation several route options in a study area looking at lands between Bohola and Turlough. That process continues.”
The decision of the elected members of Ballina Town Council to reject the work being done on the current stage of the project is something that Dep Mulherin urged her former colleagues on the town council to reverse. “At this stage I would encourage the town councillors to revisit their decision and instead engage in the consultation and planning process with Mayo County Council in relation to any concerns or suggestions the councillors have, something I note they have failed to do to date,” she said. “It should be remembered that in these tight economic times there are many other road projects around the country which would be delighted to secure funding to progress the planning of a road. Therefore it is important that the message on the record is that our local town council wants the road and are willing to engage in the planning process. The decision taken by the councillors at their recent council meeting is very premature considering that issues and constraints pertaining to the proposed routes are still being explored towards project approval and cost benefit analysis and hopefully to select a preferred route by the end of the year.”
The Government backbencher concluded: “It is important that no excuse is given to delay progress on the new route for the N26 and instead that Ballina Town Council gives its full support to the project. Ballina is well established as a shopping town, we occupy a pivotal position for the transport of freight in the region with a state-of-the-art Iarnrod Eireann freight yard, we have a proven track record as a place to locate for multinational companies, and are positioning ourselves to exploit the massive tourism potential for the area. However if we are to build on this for future social and economic growth and development of the area history will tell that Ballina requires not just east/west connectivity to Dublin and Ireland West Airport Knock but also north/south to major centres of population in Sligo and Galway and to Castlebar and Westport and the development of the N26 is crucial to this.”