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Rejection of R312 improvements ‘a disgrace’

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Dirt trail’ works rejected on enviromental grounds

Edwin McGreal

The decision by An Bord Pleanála (ABP) to refuse road improvements on the main Castlebar to Belmullet road at Glenisland on environmental grounds has been described as ‘a disgrace’.
Mayo County Council’s plans to realign the R312 at Muckanagh and Kilgarve, Glenisland, Castlebar were refused by ABP due to the impact the development might have on the Freshwater Pearl Mussel and Atlantic Salmon.
The proposed road development involves improvements to a series of bends along a 525 metre stretch of the road and includes a new culvert bridge over the Glenisland River.
Erris-based Cllr Gerry Coyle was very critical of the decision at last Thursday’s meeting of Mayo County Council.
Cllr Coyle said the road is ‘like a dirt trail’.
“Everyone is preserved but the human. If you survive a trip in an ambulance from Belmullet to Castlebar on that road, they won’t need to look at you at all in the hospital if you survived that road.
“It was a €500,000 job to take out an old bridge. Common sense isn’t that common anymore. When I was first elected as a councillor (in 1999) I was on about that road. It was built for the horse and cart but if you brought a horse on it now, you’d be done for cruelty to animals,” he said.
Mayo County Council Chief Executive Peter Hynes told Cllr Coyle ‘we share your disappointed’ and that the council submitted their Natura Impact Statement ‘in confidence’ of approval.
A Natura Impact Statement is a document the council must submit when carrying out works on Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs).
ABP said there is ‘a likelihood of significant effects’ at the Newport River SAC, which incorporates the bridge over the Glenisland River in the development.
The Newport River SAC’s conservation objective is to ‘maintain or restore the favourable conservation condition of the Freshwater Pearl Mussel and the Atlantic Salmon’, the ABP report said.
The report said the Board were ‘not satisfied’ that Mayo County Council ‘has demonstrated that the proposed development would not adversely affect the integrity’ of the SAC.
The reason for this is the type of bridge proposed.
The report continues: “This proposed development would entail a type of bridge which would necessitate the loss of existing river bed and accompanying river banks and that in its place a pre-cast culvert would be installed, which would be incapable of replicating the habitat thus removed and which would alter the hydrology/hydrodynamics of the river passing through it.”
Campaigns to improve the standard of the R312, the main road from Castlebar to the Erris region, have been ongoing for decades.
In late 2015, a council meeting heard of the dangers many road users face when travelling on the R312.
Margaret Walsh, who lives on the road and whose disabled daughter is brought up and down the road on a minibus, said ‘on health and safety grounds’ the road is a ‘very serious and urgent matter’.
She said the road had deteriorated hugely in the past 20 years and heavy traffic from trucks going to the Corrib gas terminal had led to ‘the sides of the road being broken down’ and that trucks cannot go to the side of the road.
Ms Walsh told the meeting that this means that when her daughter is travelling to Castlebar in a bus with a special needs assistant and a bus driver, if they meet a truck on one of the many bends in the road, the truck cannot pull over fully to its side of the road.
“Three lives are being put in danger. We don’t want to hear of a fatality before something is done. And that’s only me. So many other people use the road,” said Ms Walsh.
Mayo County Council will have to go back to the drawing board and submit a new application that satisfies the environmental considerations outlined by ABP.

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