High court action could leave new Westport to Turlough N5 road in jeopardy
JUDICIAL review proceedings have been initiated in the High Court against the decision by An Bord Pleanála to approve the route of the proposed new N5 Westport to Turlough road project.
The Mayo News understand that the action, brought by one landowner based near Castlebar, could cause a major complication and delay for the long-sought N5 upgrade, with a warning from local Minister of State, Michael Ring, that if the project does not commence in the lifetime of this Government (due to end in the first half of 2016) it may never happen.
An Bord Pleanála gave the green light for the project in July after engaging in a lengthy oral hearing in Westport last January, but the fate of the €180 million project now looks somewhat more precarious, with the potential for lengthy delays said to be putting its viability in jeopardy.
A spokesperson for Mayo County Council confirmed that judicial proceedings have been initiated and will cause an obvious delay to the progress of the scheme. They added that the council are working to try and resolve the matters but couldn’t comment further owing to the live nature of the legal action.
The Compulsory Purchase Orders for the 25 kilometre scheme have been approved by An Bord Pleanála, as have the Environmental Impact Statements, meaning it is ready to advance to the detailed design stage and have the procurement process begin. Without complications, it was expected that the work on site would commence in 2016. With the delays brought about by this High Court action, and the prospect of further appeals, that time frame could now be significantly extended.
When asked about the potential delay and complications, Minister of State Michael Ring, who is attached to the Government department with remit over transport, warned that if this project doesn’t commence in the lifetime of the current Government, he fears history will repeat itself, and the N5 upgrade will never come to fruition.
“I am very disappointed to hear there is an objection now, and hope it can be resolved as quickly as possible,” he said.
“When we [Fine Gael] were last in power between 1994 and 1997 this same project was ready to go and when the Government changed it fell straight off the priority list and nothing at all has happened with it in the intervening period.
“A lot of work has been undertaken to deliver this infrastructure to Mayo and if we don’t get it started in the lifetime of this Government we could find ourselves in the same position again. It was shelved in the past and there is nothing to stop that happening again, but we are ready to go with it now, so I hope it will happen, as if it is lost, so too will be the plans for ring roads and link roads around the towns it passes [Westport and Castlebar] which will have many negative, knock-on effects.”
The new N5 road development includes a northern by-pass of Westport and an eastern bypass of Castlebar, an upgrade to the existing N5 east of Castlebar, a bridge crossing of Lough Lannagh and an upgrade to an existing bridge crossing of the Castlebar River.
The proposed road development comprises of 23.7km of Type 2 Dual Carriageway, 2.1km of Type 2 Single Carriageway, six roundabouts, two rail bridges, eleven overbridges, two underbridges and seven farm underpasses.
Water scheme delay
The Mayo News can also reveal that there is now an objection and some difficulties in relation to the Srah to Westport water extension.
These issues relate to access to land – wayleaves as they are called – which provide a right of access for contractors for laying and maintenance work on the infrastructure [water mains].
The scheme is an Irish Water project, but Mayo County Council is working with the much maligned company on the problems to try and reach a prompt resolution.
Minister Ring was equally hopeful that this could be sorted out, saying the Srah to Westport scheme was also ready to commence in the mid-nineties when the then Fine Gael led Rainbow Coalition brought the emergency scheme from Cloonkeen to Westport in order to meet the town’s water needs, particularly those at Allergan.
“Like the N5, that scheme was also shelved until we returned to Government and I worked hard to secure the €7 million for the work we now see happening to finish it,” he said.