Pharmaceutical companies employing more than 5,000 people in the Cork Harbour area have come out in favour of a €220 million plan to upgrade the route from Cork city to Ringaskiddy to a motorway, but have backed residents' calls for the motorway to be diverted around Ringaskiddy village.
Michael O'Donnell of BioMarin International Ltd told an An Bord Pleanála hearing into the proposed M28 motorway that a group of nine companies employing over 5,000 people on the Ringaskiddy peninsula was in favour of the planned upgrade of the road to motorway standard.
Mr O'Donnell said BioMarin International, Carbon Group, DePuy Ireland, GlaxoSmithKline (Ireland), Hovione, Janssen Sciences Ireland, Novartis Ringaskiddy, Pfizer Ireland Pharmaceuticals and Recordati Ireland all strongly backed the planned upgrade.
“As a group of companies, we are strongly in favour of the N28 road upgrade and look forward to the opportunities it will bring, including improved transport links and the potential for further economic development in the area,” said Mr O’Donnell.
"Together, we employ over 5,000 people including contractors and third parties, and on an annual basis, we spend over €338 million on salaries, with combined operational budgets of €620 million," he told the hearing on a planning application for the motorway from Cork County Council.
Mr O’Donnell said the upgrade of the N28 was seen as essential to a sustainable future for all the stakeholders in Ringaskiddy when it was first mooted 15 years ago, but it was now critical for the nine companies and their employees as well as local residents and the wider Cork economy.
He pointed out that the prospect of a new motorway had been used as an evaluating criterion for companies when deciding to locate new manufacturing sites in Ringaskiddy, and all nine companies that he represented had expanded operations substantially since establishing in the area.
Since Cork County Council had lodged a planning application for the new motorway in June this year, both GE Healthcare and Janssen Sciences Ireland have received planning permission for significant expansion involving major construction projects, he said.
“The road is now at critical overcapacity, and the route will not be able to sustain the traffic volumes for much longer. More importantly, the volumes of traffic are leading to safety issues on the N28. Accidents resulting in fatalities or serious injury frequently occur on the road.
“This is a primary concern for our employees and residents in the community,” Mr O’Donnell said, adding the RSA had recorded some 55 traffic incidents on the N28 between Cork and Ringaskiddy during the period 2005 to 2014.
“Of those 56 accidents, tragically there were seven fatalities and we know of a further two fatalities that have already occurred in 2017– these statistics are a stark reminder of the dangers faced by our employees and local residents on a daily basis travelling to and from work.
“While you can never prevent all accidents, the construction of this motorway will help to significantly improve driving conditions for all commuters and, in particular, will enhance the safety of all our employees.”
Mr O’Donnell pointed out that when plans were first drawn up for a motorway, the first route, chosen in 2008, involved the motorway diverting around Ringaskiddy village, whereas the current proposed route runs right through the village.
“We share the concerns and frustrations of the residents regarding the proposed route through Ringaskiddy in the planning application – the 2008 preferred route took into account the wishes of the residents.
“We are at a loss to understand why the requests of our local community were ignored,” said Mr O’Donnell, before urging An Bord Pleanála to heed “the cogent arguments” made by the local community in Ringaskiddy in favour of the 2008 route.