By Dan Walsh
A progress report on the Oylegate to Rosslare Harbour motorway was top of the agenda for today’s monthly meeting of Wexford County Council held with Microsoft Teams due to Covid-19 restrictions where many members raised concerns and the current situation was described as “frustrating and embarrassing.”
Mr Sean Dobbs, Project Manager Wexford County Council, gave a comprehensive report and was generous in answering members questions. It turns out that the project is deeply complex and has been subject to change.
Mr Dobbs outlined that the Option Selection will set the trajectory and it is critically important on the impact of communities, whether positively or negatively by the decision. It is anticipated that the Preferred Option will be announced on June 18th after a thorough and comprehensive independent process.
Cathaoirleach Cllr Ger Carthy described the situation as “frustrating and embarrassing”. “We are looking at this project for nearly a quarter of a century and it is getting very frustrating for people who cannot sell their land, develop their land or sell their house.”
He questioned the litany of reports and wondered if a Green Party led agenda existed or is it a delay tactic on making a decision because two deadlines have already passed since the route was announced and “it’s become very frustrating and it’s become very embarrassing” for members to be told it was January, February, March “last week I was told it will be May” and now we are told it will be June. “I can’t understand these consultants that we are paying millions (of euro) to can’t deliver on time.”
Mr Dobbs said he would like nothing better than to deliver the scheme option now and be moving forward to detailed design and preparing a planning application but the work now being undertaken is critical to preparing that planning application, unfortunately, it does mean the option process has been delayed.
Cllr George Lawlor said that Rosslare Europort is the driver behind the Oylegate to Rosslare Harbour scheme where there has been a 500% increase in freight and connectivity to Europe. “Rosslare is now one of the key pieces of infrastructure in the country and that will only go in an upward spiral. We need to get traffic in and out of the Europort as expeditiously as possible.”
Cllr Willie Kavanagh, who lives on the side of the N11 in the village of Oylegate, believes there is 100% increase in heavy traffic going through the village since Brexit. He wondered if the Council could come up with a solution to the traffic situation until the bypass comes in ’10 year’s time’!
Cllr Pip Breen felt good about the project but expressed sadness for the impacted people along the route and do not know more about the preferred route to make their lives move on. The criteria has changed on four or five occasions.
Cllr Lisa McDonald said there was a six months delay on the time given last June and the people on Route C have had their houses sterilised since around 2006. She believes that it is only a matter of time until constitutional action may bring the matter before the courts for keeping people from their property for so long. “We have been delayed six months. It is very frustrating. It is very embarrassing. You not only got Oylegate, but also Kilrane, Killinick, Crossabeg, Piercestown and Murrintown, a lot of communities are being affected, people are being very patient, but patience will run out if there is not a route for them by June.”
Cllr Cathal Byrne who represents the people who are along Route G in Ballyhogue and Killurin was “very disappointed.”
Cllr Jim Codd referred to farmers who need to let their land long-term, sow forestry, or sell a house that are stuck in limbo. When this pandemic lifts we are going to have a very different country and he acknowledged Cllr McDonald’s remark about travel “you may as well be looking into a field of thistles.”
Cllr Frank Staples had concerns that someone mentioned “this might not happen” and he spoke about Killinick village where there are five exit and entrance points within 200 metres and the place is very dangerous. “It was always dangerous,” he added. He supposed that if the application did not get through An Bord Pleanala that finance would not be forthcoming!
Cllr John Hegarty shared the sentiments of members about people left in limbo, but he felt that the approach that Mr Dobbs is taking is the right one if unnecessary delays are avoided. “There are undoubtably going to be delays, and this won’t be the last one, but getting it right now will benefit with An Bord Pleanala and the funding.”
Cllr Davy Hynes was elected to the Town Council almost 23 years ago and the talk was about making Rosslare Harbour better and he wondered if it will be another 23 years and they will be still talking about it. “Only for Brexit we wouldn’t be as near as where we are because there was no interest in Rosslare at that time,” said Cllr Hynes.