Building bridges

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Building bridges

President Mary McAleese adopted the notion of ‘building bridges’ in communities during her term of office. It is a noble aspiration and has been most successful in reaching out to Northern Protestants. She has found the good in difficult situations by appealing to the innate goodness in people. She meets them at a very human level, where raw honesty is the only baggage that is allowed. There is a ‘rootedness’ about honesty. It cannot harbour anything that is hidden. It lays bare all that is preventing the person from moving forward. Progress can only be made as a community member. We, as humans, are a communal race. Even in prayer, Christians say ‘Our Father’ rather than ‘my’ Father. Community is the essence of ‘love thy neighbour’.
Win or lose
Over the past few weeks people have approached members of the Westport Civic Trust stating, in a resigned ‘I told you so’ manner, that efforts to oppose the construction of the new Cloonmonad road and bridge over the Railway Line Walk were a waste of time. “The Council will always win,” said one person. Opposition to the proposed project, or any project, is not as simple a matter as having a winner and a loser. If losers emerge from any project then there is something wrong. Outcomes have to have something for everyone – that is the essence of democracy. There is still no share in any victory for people opposed to the Cloonmonad project, yet all is not lost.
The irony is that Westport Civic Trust is not opposed to development. Neither is it opposed to opening up the Cloonmonad lands for development. The issue is the methodology. The question is simple - why impact on such an amenity as the Railway Line Walk?
With all the talk and banter there is still no detailed plan of the design of the proposed bridge available. Will it end up as a stone-clad culvert monstrosity like its sister bridge on High Street? That is a genuine fear of many people who grew up in this lovely town and cherish a sensitive approach to its further development. What will be constructed will be there for generations. It will be a legacy, for better or for worse.    
In reality, if the only common ground means that a crossing has to be made across the Railway Line Walk, why not install just that, a crossing? Let traffic and pedestrians respect each other at that point and there will be no need for a dreaded bridge. Then Cllr Dave Keating’s proposal could be adopted – run the road INTO Cloonmonad not down alongside the Railway Line Walk.
An Bord Pleanála
Over the past few weeks contact has been made with An Bord Pleanála by Westport Civic Trust in an attempt to find some common ground with Westport Town Council, the proposers of the Cloonmonad project.       
An Bord Pleanála is now examining the matter and has requested the details of the file on the project from Westport Town Council. In the meantime, the Council is still proceeding with the work. This raises some questions under the various pieces of legislation surrounding the manner in which this project was passed, a Part 10, now known as a Part 8. The legal intricacies are being examined by a legal team and it is still possible that a court injunction will be sought to halt the work while a judge will have to consider the legal implications of the project.
For those who are astute in legalese then the Irish Statute internet site will provide hours of interesting reading on various aspects of the law and how it affects this project.
The request from the Westport Civic Trust to An Bord Pleanála was to examine the project and cited Article 120 (3)(a) Planning and Development Regulations, 2001. This section states: “The Board shall, where it considers that sub-threshold development proposed to be carried out by a local authority would be likely to have significant effects on the environment, require the local authority to prepare, or cause to be prepared, an EIS in respect thereof.” An EIS – Environmental Impact Statement – is a serious piece of work and requires diligence. No EIS has been submitted for this project, yet it was recommended by the Council engineer in 2001.
Roads Act, 1993
An Bord Pleanála will examine the project under Section 50 (1)(b) Roads Act, 1993.  his extract includes other parts of Section 50: 
“(1)(a) A road authority shall prepare a statement of the likely effects on the environment (hereinafter referred to as an ‘environmental impact statement’) of any proposed road development consisting of (i) the construction of a motorway; (ii) the construction of a busway; (iii) any prescribed type of proposed road development consisting of the construction of a proposed public road or the improvement of an existing public road.
“(b) Where the Minister considers that any proposed road development (other than development to which paragraph (a) applies) consisting of the construction of a proposed public road or the improvement of an existing public road would be likely to have significant effects on the environment, he shall direct the road authority to prepare an environmental impact statement in respect of such proposed road development and the authority shall comply with such direction. 
“(c) Where a road authority considers that any proposed road development (other than development to which paragraph (a) applies) consisting of the construction of a proposed public road or the improvement of an existing public road would be likely to have significant effects on the environment, it shall inform the Minister in writing and where the Minister concurs with the road authority he shall give a direction to the road authority under paragraph (b).      
“(2) An environmental impact statement shall contain the following specified information: (a) a description of the proposed road development, comprising information about the site, design, size, physical characteristics and land-use requirements of the development; (b) the data necessary to identify and assess the main effects which the proposed road development is likely to have on the environment; (c) a description of the likely significant effects, direct and indirect, on the environment of the proposed road development, explained by reference to its possible impact on (i) human beings, fauna and flora; (ii) soil, water, air, climate and the landscape; (iii) the inter-action between any of the matters referred to in subparagraphs (i) and (ii); (iv) material assets, and (v) the cultural heritage; (d) where significant adverse effects are identified with respect to any of the matters referred to in paragraph (c), a description of the measures envisaged in order to avoid, reduce and, if possible, remedy those effects; (e) where appropriate, an outline of the main alternatives (if any) studied and an indication of the main reasons for choosing the proposed alternative, taking into account the environmental effects; and (f) a summary in non-technical language.”
It takes more than bricks and mortar to build bridges. It also takes courage, compassion, dialogue, humility and trust. They are equally abundant within the Westport Civic Trust and Westport Town Council.  Today is July 12 and all we need is a President!