Victory for Watersville residents on relief road plan

The residents of Watersville, Pontoon Road, Castlebar secured a victory in their fight to stop a relief road passing through their estate this week at the monthly meeting of Castlebar Town Council. A large group of the residents attended the meeting in Marsh House where the elected members rejected a new inner relief road from the Pontoon Road to Rathbawn that would have passed through their estate. A motion from independent Councillor Michael Kilcoyne which was seconded by Fíanna Fáil Cllr Blackie Gavin was passed which will see the proposed improvement works on New Line and Davitt’s Terrace go ahead, but the works will terminate after Davitt’s Terrace and no relief road will be built through the Watersville area. The road is now off the table for at least six months and after which time the town manager can put the proposal before the elected members again.

Earlier in the meeting Town Manager Seamus Granahan gave a presentation on the proposal which would, he said, benefit at least 1,800 people who live on the north side of the town who are currently forced into the town centre even if they don’t want to go there, to access other routes in and out of the town. Mr Granahan acknowledged that the residents had some very serious and valid concerns in relation to this road, but with the proposed northern relief road going to cost at least €27 million at the current market rate it will be a long time before this will ever see the light of day and the council executive’s proposed route is the only solution they can see which could be completed in the short term, at a cost of around €2 million. He told the meeting “There is a need for this link road and it will take a lot of pressure off the junctions at New Line and Chapel Street, which at the moment are choking under pressure.”

Fíanna Fáil Cllr Blackie Gavin told the meeting that “As a public representative and resident of this area of the town, I’m totally opposed to this road. I’ve said it from day one. This council has closed off roads through estates like Maryland and McHale Road and now we’re trying to force a road through the estate. I’m elected by the people and as long as the people elect me I will be totally opposed to any proposal like this.”

Road included in the development plan

Mr Granahan earlier in the meeting told the members that this road was included in the development plan for the town and had been included in the original planning permission for the estate when it was first built as it was always a possibility. Independent Cllr Michael Kilcoyne asked the manager could the elected members then vary the plan to delete the road from it, which he was told they could. Cllr Kilcoyne then stated before his proposal, “It is important that when the town council and the county council are doing development plans that residents look at them and make submissions, so we don’t end up in situations like this.” If the councillors are to vary the plan there will have to be a majority vote of the nine elected members of the council.

Fine Gael Cllr Eugene McCormack told the meeting that “I have grave difficulties with putting a road through the estate. We were told that the northern relief road will cost €27 million euro, but how much would it cost to construct just one leg of the road from the old Glenisland Road to the Pontoon Road?” Senior Engineer for the council Patsy Burke told him that it would cost €4 million to build the road itself but there would have to be link roads built to it also which could cost at least half of the €27 million for the full project. He also stated that this section relief road would be so far out of the town that it would not really solve the problem.

Cllr McCormack’s Fine Gael colleague Cllr Brendan Heneghan put forward a counter motion to Cllr Kilcoyne’s that the works continue up to Davitts Terrace and the relief road be put on hold until the town manger can enter into intensive negotiations with the residents to try and work out a compromise to the impasse. This proposal was seconded by Fíanna Fáil Cllr Séan Burke with both cllrs agreeing that negotiations could solve a lot of the issues. Castlebar Mayor Kevin Guthrie told the meeting that “I’ve laid my cards on the table from the start, that I can’t allow a road to go through an estate. I’d be contradicting myself if I ever allowed it. I’m amazed that no real consultation process between the council and the residents has been entered into. But I do know that the Town Manager and the senior engineers will go through with the consultations.” Cllr Kilcoyne’s proposal was voted through by four votes to three with Cllr Kilcoyne, Cllr Gavin, Cllr Mee and Cllr McCormack for it, while, Cllr Heneghan, Cllr Burke and Cllr Guthrie voted against it.

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