High Court orders temporary stop to work on Kilkenny bridges

Local resident sought order claiming works were causing harm to the River Nore

The High Court has ordered that construction work on two bridges, one of which has been the scene of protests by local people, in Kilkenny City be halted. Photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins.

The High Court has ordered that construction work on two bridges, one of which has been the scene of protests by local people, in Kilkenny City be halted. Photograph: Chris Maddaloni/Collins.

 

The High Court has ordered that construction work on two bridges, one of which has been the scene of protests by local people, in Kilkenny City be halted.

The orders were sought by local resident Christopher O’Keeffe (35), who claims the construction of temporary access causeways in the River Nore, done to aid the building of the bridges, are causing environmental harm to the river. It is also claimed the causeways could increase the risk of flooding.

Mr O’Keeffe’s claims are based on an expert report by an ecologist saying construction work had to be “urgently restrained” or greater damage would be done to the Nore’s aquatic ecology.

He further claims the causeways directly breach a condition of the consent given by An Bord Pleanála when it gave the Kilkenny County Council permission to construct the bridges.

Ms Justice Maire Baker, who said the case involved matters that are “most serious” and “important”, made temporary interim injunctions requiring Kilkenny County Council to stop work at the Greens Bridge site and at the site of a footbridge currently being constructed beneath the Ossory Bridge at Nore Linear Park, Kilkenny. The bridges are 1.3km apart.

Greens Bridge has been the scene of several protests by locals against the construction of a new bridge, which is part of a €10.7m project known as the Kilkenny Central Access Scheme. Protesters believe the project will damage Kilkenny’s medieval heritage. The council says the bridge is necessary for the economic development of the city.

Barrister Niall Handy BL, for Mr O Keeffe of Greenfields, James Park, Freshford, Kilkenny, said his cleint is opposed to the construction of the new bridge at Greens Bridge. He has participated in peaceful protests near the construction site, counsel added.

He said Mr O’Keeffe became particularly concerned when work on the casueways near Greens Bridge commenced in July. Counsel said “truckloads” of limestone rocks were “dumped” in the river to form the causeways.

Counsel said a report was carried out by consultant ecologist Evelyn Moorkens, an expert on certain protected species found in the river Nore. Her report states the works are causing “significant harm to the water quality” which in turn has created “a serious risk” to protected species in the river, including the Freshwater Pearl Mussel, which are particularly sensitive.

Counsel said the River Nore comprises part of the River Barrow and Nore Special Area of Conservation and is a protected habitat.

An expert engineer has said in a report that this narrowed blocking of the river at the construction sites will increase the flood risk, counsel added.

In her ruling, Ms Justice Baker said she was satisfied to grant a interim injunction halting construction on the bridges. The injunction was granted on an ex-parte basis, where only one side was represented in court.

What was before the court was a “most serious and important application” the Judge said. The Judge said she accepted that the council had denied any wrongdoing in correspondence with Mr O’Keeffe’s solicitors, and that certain works on the bridges had to be carried out in August and September. Any delay on the works were costing the council €14,000 per day, the Judge said.

However, the Judge said in arriving at her decision to grant an injunction she was taking note of Ms Moorken’s report. The Judge said Ms Moorkens stated she had not seen such a serious event of of pollution in a special area of Conservation in her professional career.

The matter was adjourned till Wednesday of next week.