SKIBBEREEN Cllr Karen Coakley has called on Council planners to ‘dust off and revise’ an old town council plan to develop the Marsh.
Speaking at a recent meeting of the West Cork Municipal District, the Fine Gael councillor called for the development of a car park in the large green field between the by-pass road and the rear of North Street and Main Street.
Skibbereen’s former town council – which was one of a number of town councils that were disbanded in 2014 to make way for the new Municipal Districts – not only had a plan to create a car park in the Marsh, the town councillors also set aside some of their development fund for the project as well.
Mac Dara O h-Icí, a senior executive officer with Cork County Council, confirmed that the money is still available, and he suggested that the issue should be raised at the Council’s local area planning meeting. In the meantime, he said he would circulate a copy of the old plan to the members of the West Cork Municipal District.
A local businessman had, in lieu of development charges, built a pedestrian bridge, which was to be used to link the Marsh to the town centre at Bridge Street. But the striking bridge has never been opened and has become affectionately known by some as the ‘bridge to nowhere’.
As part of the plan, it was envisaged that the area in front of the bridge would be developed as a public amenity. That part of the plan also exists as part of a current public realm plan for Skibbereen.
According to Cllr Coakley, the Council should also begin discussions with Bus Éireann to relocate the bus stop to the new car park saying: ‘It would alleviate the congestion in Bridge Street,’ a narrow town centre street where the bus stop is currently located.
The councillor also suggested that The Marsh would be ‘a perfect location for a Council-led bio-diversity project.’ And she welcomed suggestions by some locals who want to see a loop walk, or riverside walk, created around the perimeter of the new car park.
Cllr Coakley said there was no point in having the plan gathering dust on a shelf. She suggested: ‘We need to try and move forward with this.’
Cllr Paul Hayes (SF) supported the motion saying: ‘A riverside walk would be most welcome.’ Cllr Hayes also suggested that some of the Council’s borrowings from the EU should be used for capital projects like this.
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) supported Cllr Coakley’s motion saying: ‘This plan is a long time going nowhere.’
Mac Dara O h-Icí said the proposal to relocate the bus stop is something that could be considered as part of the overall package, but he said that is ultimately a decision that will be made by the National Transport Authority.
A spokesperson for Cork County Council declined to comment on the future of the ‘bridge to nowhere’ in Skibbereen, which is the pedestrian bridge at Levis Quay, adding that it ‘is not the property of Cork County Council and has not been taken in charge the by Council’.