BUILDING BRIDGES The current bridge over the Glenisland River on the R312 Castlebar to Belmullet road. Mayo County Council’s application for a new bridge was approved recently at the second time of asking.
Planning permission has finally been granted for a new bridge as part of long awaited improvement works on the main Castlebar to Belmullet road at Glenisland.
In 2017 An Bord Plenála refused an application by Mayo County Council for a new bridge on the R312 road but a renewed application, which included a change to the proposed type of bridge, saw permission granted by the board on July 18 last.
The proposed bridge, which will cross over the Glenisland River, will now be a clear-span bridge. The initial application was for a box culvert bridge.
In 2017 An Bord Pleanála cited in their refusal the impact the council’s proposed development for a precast box culvert bridge might have on the Freshwater Pearl Mussel and Atlantic Salmon, indigenous to the Glenisland River, and said a clear span bridge was preferable.
A renewed application from the council was approved by An Bord Pleanála subject to conditions. These include that the clear span bridge proposed by the council be increased from 17 metres to 19 metres and that the abutments – the supporting structures at either end of the clear span bridge – are to to be set back at least four metres from the Glenisland River.
Mayo County Council has welcomed the decision. Peter Hynes, Chief Executive, Mayo County Council, said: “We are pleased that An Bord Pleanála have granted permission for the realignment works to take place. Enhancing road safety and connectivity for our citizens is a priority for Mayo County Council and these improvement works on the R312 will enhance the quality of our road network.”
Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Brendan Mulroy, added: “It has been a long process to get to this stage and we expect to see the realignment works taking place in the very near future. It is critical for the ongoing economic, social and tourism development of Mayo to have a high quality road network.”
Speaking to The Mayo News in 2017 after the first application was unsuccessful, George O’Malley, an expert in forestry and who has worked for over 30 years on the construction of bridges and roads through special areas of conservation, was critical of the council’s application for a box culvert bridge and said a clear span bridge was ‘the only option for the council’.
“I am one of the biggest critics of designated lands but this is not even up for debate. I cannot understand why the council were trying to put in a box culvert in a SAC that is a salmon spawning river and at risk from flash flooding as it is a mountain stream. A box culvert bridge construction would involve the excavation of the river bed to a depth of half a metre. It’s very likely that box culverts that have been installed in such locations will have to be removed.
“A clearspan bridge can exceed 40 metres wide without touching the river bed. This river crossing is much narrower than that. Designation of land is a fact of life in the west of Ireland and we have to be aware of it. I would be critical of ABP at times but completely support them on this,” he said.
At the time Mayo County Council said the refusal had set back works by one year. It is now closer to two years since the initial refusal.
“The golden rule when carrying out forestry operations close to waterways is get out of the water and stay out of it,” said George O’Malley in 2017. “A clear span bridge is the only solution here yet the council insisted, despite the best professional advice recommending a clear span bridge, to look to use a precast box culvert.
“The council would not now be facing a one year delay if they applied for a clear span bridge. The decision to proceed as it did is baffling,” he added.