Group challenges planning decision on €220m Ringaskiddy motorway

Arguments about community rights v economic development likely to arise in court hearing

The decision by Bord Pleanála last July to grant planning permission for the upgrade of the N28 from Ringaskiddy to the Bloomfield Junction on the N40 South Ring Road was controversial.

The decision by Bord Pleanála last July to grant planning permission for the upgrade of the N28 from Ringaskiddy to the Bloomfield Junction on the N40 South Ring Road was controversial.

 

A judicial review sought by a group representing 10,000 Cork residents against An Bord Pleanála’s decision to grant planning permission for a €220 million motorway will be heard on Tuesday.

The High Court hearing will focus on the planning process but will almost certainly also hear arguments pitting community rights against infrastructure development.

The decision by Bord Pleanála last July to grant planning permission for the upgrade of the N28 from Ringaskiddy to the Bloomfield Junction on the N40 South Ring Road was controversial.

The plan had also proved divisive at an oral hearing in 2017.

Last July, Bord Pleanála confirmed its inspector, Mary Kennelly had recommended in a 425-page report that planning permission be granted with conditions under the Strategic Infrastructure Act for the proposed motorway which runs north-south from near Carrigaline to Cork’s southern suburbs.

The upgrade will involve the construction of approximately 11km of standard dual divided motorway with two lanes and a hard shoulder in each direction between Douglas and Carrigaline; and a further 1.6 kilometres of single carriageway from near Carrigaline to Ringaskiddy.

Ms Kennelly said she was satisfied there was a community need for the project, which will require the acquisition of 141.5 hectares of land from more than 80 landowners under Compulsory Purchase Orders. She said she did not believe the project would “result in significant adverse community impact”.

This view is disputed strongly by the M28 Steering Group, a campaign group representing some 10,000 residents, mainly at the northern end of the proposed route in suburbs such as Rochestown, Douglas and Mount Oval, who accounted for many of the 100 witnesses who testified at the hearing.

The oral hearing, which ran for 12 days in November and December 2017, highlighted a clear divide between local residents who were opposed and business interests, which supported the project.

Those in favour included the Port of Cork, which is moving to Ringaskiddy; Cork County Council; Cork City Council and Transport Infrastructure.

Cork Chamber policy and research executive Michelle O’Sullivan said the upgrade to a motorway would allow further growth in the pharma sector in Ringaskiddy where some 5,000 people are employed, while it would also facilitate the move of the Port of Cork from the City Quays and Tivoli to Ringaskiddy.

Speaking on behalf of the pharma sector, Michael O’Donnell of Biomarin said improved transportation links would lead to further investment in a sector that was investing €338 million into the local economy in salaries and had a combined annual operational budget of €620 million.

Port of Cork senior engineer Henry Kingston said upgrading the N28 was essential for the Port of Cork to move from the city quays and Tivoli to Ringaskiddy, a development that would free up over 220 hectares of land in the city for business and residential development.

Residents who oppose the plan argued the project would see the number of vehicles on the route increase from 9.5 million to 24 million per year.

They also said it would have a hugely detrimental effect on local communities through increased air and noise pollution, with the motorway within three metres of some houses.

They said it would not produce the necessary improved transport connectivity as it would lead to more congestion at the Bloomfield Junction on the N40 Southern Ring Road, which already experiences significant peak time congestion.

A spokesman for the M28 Steering Group, Gerard Harrington, said the residents had proposed an alternative route further west which would connect Ringaskiddy with Cork Airport and link it to the N40 South Ring at either the Kinsale Road or Bandon Road roundabout.

He said Cork County Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland had rejected this option on cost grounds.

Four days have been set aside for the judicial review and the judgment will be reserved.

However, given the strength of feeling about the project, an appeal to the Supreme Court by the losing side cannot be ruled out.