THE traffic chaos that ground Clonakilty to a halt this week, causing long tailbacks of up to 50 minutes, looks set to continue for several months.
Motorists heading east through the town faced major delays on the town’s by-pass road, on a week which saw the beginning of State exams and also the start of the main tourist season in West Cork.
The delays were caused by a stop-go traffic light system, part of the town’s €10m flood relief works, which will be in operation for at least the next month.
Meanwhile, work on the road to Ring will see that artery closed completely to traffic for eight months, from July.
And motorists travelling west through Leap village were also hit with long tailbacks this week, caused by resurfacing works.
At a meeting of the West Cork Municipal District held in Courtmacsherry on Monday, Cllrs Christopher O’Sullivan (FF), Paul Hayes (SF) and John O’Sullivan (FG) raised concerns about the proposed eight-month closure of the road to Ring village, another element of the ongoing flood relief scheme. Cllr Hayes questioned how an original eight-week scheduled road closure had jumped to eight months. And Cllr O’Sullivan asked: ‘What contingency plan has been put in place to deal with a possible emergency?’
Cllr O’Sullivan claimed that an eight-month closure of the road, from July to February, would have ‘a devastating effect on both the community of Ring and some of the small businesses that depend on that road for survival.’
Area engineer Michael Tobin confirmed that the road is too narrow to operate a single-lane traffic system and that it will be fully closed for health and safety reasons to both motorists and pedestrians.
A public meeting held in Deasy’s in Ring on Monday night was attended by many concerned residents and local business owners, all expressing their concerns for the next few months.
Brian Blackwell of Deasy’s award-winning restaurant in Ring told The Southern Star: ‘We rely on summer trade to carry us through the year. Without that business we won’t be able to sustain ourselves and will have to close.
‘The alternative routes being proposed would give people no reason to come past our restaurant. At the moment, we are on the Wild Atlantic Way and that is a fantastic asset to our business. But the detours would just bypass our business completely.’
David Jennings of Desert House Caravan and Camping Park, which is located on the coast road, told The Southern Star: ‘The closure of the road to Ring will close our business. If they close the road for eight months it will mean that a person coming to my campsite will have to go on five miles of a detour. And when they get to me they will have no pedestrian access into town.
‘Last weekend,’ he added, ‘we had 100 people in the site for the Bank Holiday weekend and every one of them went to town for the three days of the weekend and spent a lot of money in Clonakilty. If that is taken out of the economy for the summer months it will have an impact on Clonakilty too.’
Residents pointed out that the back roads, which are to be used as detours, are ‘not fit for purpose’ and they agreed to start a petition.
Letters of objection are also to be sent to the director of services for road and transportation at the courthouse in Skibbereen.
A local businessman, who did not wish to be named, claimed the works will ‘destroy the whole town for the summer’.
He said he had argued for extended working hours to get the job done more quickly. But he also acknowledged: ‘There are a lot of people who have suffered from flooding in this town and we have no choice but to get on with it. We have to take the pain to get the gain.’
A Southern Star video of the tailbacks has been viewed over 8,000 times with Timothea Corcoran describing it as ‘complete bedlam … but we have to remember these works are vital to the poor homeowners and businesses who lose their belongings and livelihoods when it floods.’
Mick Hanly, Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce, said: ‘It is accepted that there is a cost to carrying out the flood works, but it cannot be done at any cost to the business community.
‘There is no doubt about it, this is going to be tough on businesses in Clonakilty, but we will be doing our very best to try and alleviate as much of the traffic congestion as possible through dialogue with the contractors.’
Bandon has also been warned they’re in line for five years of roadworks, as the Flood Relief plan takes effect.