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Council called on to take over ‘unique’ forest road

Council called on to take over ‘unique’ forest road

Anton McNulty

MAYO County Council have been asked to price the cost of taking over responsibility for a ‘unique’ private road that links west and north Mayo and is considered one of the busiest private roads in the county.
The call to take over the Letterkeen Forest Road near Newport was made by Independent councillor Michael Holmes, who said it was used by the public on a regular basis and linked west Mayo to Crossmolina and Ballina.
The three-mile stretch of road was upgraded to the tune of €130,000 in 2005 and was described as a ‘fantastic road’ by Cllr Holmes, but was concerned it would quickly deteriorate following the scrapping of LIS funding. He explained that because it is a private road, nobody is willing to take responsibility for it.
“It is an unusual road in that it links two communities and is used by the public on a regular basis. The Council use it, it is promoted as a tourism road and the public use it to go to Crossmolina and Ballina. But because it is an LIS road we can’t give it money and the Council can’t fix it. It is so important to everyone but no one takes responsibility for it,” he said.
Steve Verity, the area engineer, agreed that it would satisfy the criteria to be taken over if it was brought up to standard.
When asked by Cllr Holmes whether the council would take responsibility for the road if it was upgraded, Mr Verity said he could not give an answer. Cllr Holmes explained that Coillte, which uses the road, had agreed to provide material. A few thousand euro would be enough to bring it up to standard, he said. However Padraig Walsh, the Council’s senior engineer said it was a private road and to upgrade it they would have to take money from the budget of a public road.
Director of Services Martin Keating added that the ‘crunch of the matter’ was that there was no LIS funding. When this funding returned, they would deal with it, he said.
“We are trying to fix square pegs into round holes. The normal way to deal with it is through LIS and if there were funds there would be no issue and we would deal with it,” he said.
The scrapping of LIS funding was criticised by the councillors who said there were a number of roads on which people were unable to drive in the area and they could not understand why there was no funding.
Cllr Holmes said that since he was elected, 32 roads in the Burrishoole area have been tarred through the LIS scheme, which demonstrated showed how important it was. Cllr Micheál McNamara called on Ministers Ring and Varadkar to reintroduce the scheme and called on the Fine Gael councillors to put pressure on them.
Fine Gael councillor Gerry Coyle said they had written to the ministers, but added that the money was not there. Even when the scheme was in place there was not enough money to maintain all the roads, he said.

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