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Controversial walk approved

Controversial walk approved

Joan Geraghty

The ruling by An Bord Pleanála in favour of an access bridge over the historic Railway Walk in Westport looks set to pave the way for a new housing development.
It was revealed at last week’s Westport Town Council meeting that the appeals board had shot down an objection to the bridge lodged by the Westport Civic Trust, which had called for an Environmental Impact Statement in respect of the development.
The Board ruled it would ‘not be appropriate for it to consider requiring the road authority to prepare an EIS for this development or that part of it that remains to be completed.’
Cllr Brendan Mulroy said it was very unfair that the board had been called on to be the saviour for housing in the town and called on those objecting to the bridge to ‘get off the fence once and for all and say if they were in favour of or against housing in Westport’.
He suggested that the ‘Stop the Road’ campaign had offered no feasible alternative to the bridge and had engaged in scare-mongering about exits on to the Quay Road.
Cllr Peter Flynn said he was delighted with the board’s common sense decision which must be welcomed. “But it was a severe waste of time, energy and money dealing with what was a frivolous objection. People wonder why the planning system grinds to a halt and it’s for reasons like this. I would be very interested to know what it cost the council to defend this appeal and I think the two councillors who supported this (Cllr Keith Martin (absent from meeting) and Cllr Martin Keane) owe us an apology in relation to their behaviour on the whole thing.”
Cllr Dave Keating said the appeal was unwise because the board’s ruling was a sweeping one that indicated the entire plan should be completed. “So in terms of objections, there’s no more road on that particular route.”
Cllr Myles Staunton said there was quite a bit of what he called ‘typewriter politics’ in the campaign.
“It is very easy to sit behind a computer and e-mail a newspaper when those who you oppose are not around you, just showing one side of the argument. But once in this real and proper forum, no alternatives were put forward.”
Cllr Martin Keane  said he would not apologise for anything as he still opposed the road.
“But I’m not opposed to housing. I thought there might be different directions, that the people involved would come up with alternatives, I asked them myself in that organisation but it wasn’t done,” he said.
Cllr Margaret Adams said no council member would do anything to destroy ‘the beautiful town and heritage we have here in Westport and love to showcase’.
Westport Town Manager, Mr Peter Hynes, said that while the council didn’t normally comment on ABP decisions, it was intimately involved in this one.
“The bridge will bring a wonderful new amenity to the town that will be well lit so that people will be able to walk all the way to the Quay, day or night. In time it will become part of the heritage of this town.
“The area between the two bridges up to the new fire station also has the potential to be very significant park area and we would welcome any ideas on that.
“For the record, we will be improving the Railway Walk, which is here to stay. The bridge will open up a new area for housing which is so important,” he said.