Engineer applauds huge local input and great feedback for major traffic study, writes Jackie Keogh
A REVISED transport study for Castletownbere has been described as a blueprint for the future development of the busy fishing port.
County mayor Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy (FF) proposed that a report on the second round of public consultation be approved by the West Cork Municipal District.
He said the study – which looks at everything from traffic flow to improved parking – was ‘a fantastic strategy.’
Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind) agreed that what is being proposed in the plan is ‘a fantastic step forward.’ He said: ‘It recognises the role of Castletownbere in the economic life of West Cork and would – when completed – allow people to stop and enjoy Castletownbere as a tourist town too.’
Eoin O’Mahony, an engineer with Aecom, the consultant engineers engaged by Cork County Council to carry out the report, said he had never before experienced such feedback and input to a study.
He confirmed that there were 233 written submissions following the second-round public consultation day at the Beara Coast Hotel on April 10th last.
In total, 26% of the submissions were supportive, 18% were neutral, and 56% were categorised as unsupportive.
In his report to the West Cork Municipal District, Mr O’Mahony addressed many of the concerns in the ‘unsupportive’ category.
He said there were many reasons why a transport study was needed, including the lack of safe and appropriate facilities for pedestrians and wheelchair users.
Growth in population, employment and tourism had also added a strain on the town’s infrastructure, and the study identified traffic congestion, parking and travel deficiencies within the network.
Mr O’Mahony said the overall plan involves a number of schemes that will be the subject of a series of Part 8 planning applications and that the project can be refined and amended at each of these stages.
In the meantime, he said, the plan – and the public consultation process – addressed a lot of the concerns and recommendations made by local residents and members of the business community.
One of the main pillars of the project is the provision of a two-way relief road that would involve reclaiming land from the sea at the south of the town.
He said that would leave Main Street open to a one-way system with traffic moving from West to East, in the direction of Allihies to Glengarriff.
He said there was some local opposition to this but if the traffic flow went from East to West – Glengarriff to Allihies – travel time would be increased by 28%.
Not only would the West to East one-way system save time, he said it could also lead to less congestion at the SuperValu junction, because there would be less of a crossover of traffic.
Parking was another major issue.
The consultants, in conjunction with Cork County Council, identified two new potential car parks – in two parcels of land very close to the eastern edge of the town.
There were objections to one, but the other has potential to provide parking within easy walking distance of the town centre.
Furthermore, Mr O’Mahony said the plan recommends that additional car parking would be provided in the Town Square, bringing the total number there to 42. And he said this area would also benefit from public realm works that some councillors described as ‘a facelift.’
Peter O’Donoghue, the Council’s senior engineer, also pointed out that Castletownbere is fortunate in that the Department of Marine is willing to co-operate with the project, and an additional departmental car park would provide more than 100 parking spaces at the western side of town.
‘That is a huge bonus that you wouldn’t find in any other town that I can think of,’ said Mr O’Donoghue.
The report also addressed local people’s concerns about the need to retain car parking on the Main Street and near the ferry terminal.
Mr O’Mahony said an additional 61 car parking spaces are needed to the east of the town to serve the longer stay parking requirements of the town and that a separate feasibility study will be undertaken to determine the most suitable locations for these additional spaces.
Count mayor Cllr Patrick Gerard Murphy described Mr O’Mahony’s report as ‘timely’ because the study will form the framework of a major funding application under the rural regeneration programme.