Residents on a narrow stretch of road outside Glengarriff say they feel like prisoners in their own homes because of road closures in the area.
One of the residents, John Prendergast, told The Southern Star that the road closure times were oppressively restrictive.
He said: ‘I understand that I am supposed to leave at 8am each day while the works are ongoing, but we are not told when we can return to our homes.’
Mr Prendergast said the contractor’s solution – a WhatsApp notification – was not working for everyone, especially the elderly, and he pointed out that some properties are inaccessible until late evening.
‘In our case, we have two small children who need to go to school in Kealkil every day, and it would be handy if they could get back to do their homework and get fed at a reasonable hour.’
His concerns – which were addressed to councillors in an email with the eye-catching subject line: ‘Help! Glengarriff residents trapped in their own homes’ – were discussed at a recent meeting of the West Cork Municipal District in Dunmanway.
Mr Prendergast acknowledged that ‘a certain level of inconvenience is inevitable’ but insisted that so much more could be done to make local access easier.
In response to the complaints, an engineer acknowledged: ‘There is no doubt that there is inconvenience but certainly there is no one trapped.’
The engineer said the contractor, McSweeney Bros Ltd, carried out a letter drop to each of the residents and the first phase of the works were carried out using a Stop-Go traffic management system.
However, on Monday, February 18th last, the contractor moved to a full road closure for safety reasons because the road is, on average, just under 5m wide.
The engineer said the paving train is laying hot material of 140 degree Celsius along the full width of the road and after the material is laid it requires time to compact and cool down.
The contractor said all residents have ‘unhindered access up to 8am’ but after that access to individual properties will depend on where the paving train is.
The contractor maintained that their liaison person is ‘in constant contact’ with the residents and, in the case of an emergency, the traffic management and works crew can make way for the emergency vehicles to pass through.
The engineer pointed out that the contractor is working to ‘a very tight timeframe so as to minimise the impact on locals and also to tourist traffic.’ And he said the project is still on target to be completed by March 16th.
Mr Prendergast said he was not satisfied with the engineer’s reply. He said: ‘Those criteria are more appropriate to the closure of a section of motorway and not a 5m road in the heart of West Cork.’
He also pointed out that the liaison person was not on site at all times to keep people informed and that the residents were often left wondering what was happening.
Mr Prendergast said he was aware that ‘the clock has run down on the project, but for other people living in other areas there should be a better traffic management plan put in place – one that explains to the residents how they can engage with the process and be kept better informed.’
In raising the issue, Cllr Danny Collins (Ind) maintained it is not too late to improve the traffic management plan in this area, and to learn lessons for the future.
He also made the point that residents – particularly the elderly – who are not on WhatsApp should be kept better informed.
Cllr Collins said: ‘People here did feel as if they were prisoners in their own homes. It is not just one person who feels that way. All you need to do is look at my phone and you can see how many people are calling me about this issue.’