Cllr: Al­ter­na­tive M20 route does not make so­cial, eco­nomic or en­vi­ron­men­tal sense

The Corkman - - NEWS - BILL BROWNE

A CORK county coun­cil­lor has de­scribed as “alarm­ing” a plan to con­duct road­side in­ter­views and sur­veys around Mal­low and Mitchel­stown as part of a re­view into the pro­posed M20 Cork-Lim­er­ick mo­tor­way scheme.

Cllr Gearóid Mur­phy said that while hopes were high that the project would be in­cluded in an an­nounce­ment on the gov­ern­ment’s Cap­i­tal Spend­ing Plan ex­pected in Novem­ber, he was con­cerned that Mitchel­stown was be­ing sur­veyed.

His com­ments have come fol­low­ing re­cent spec­u­la­tion that the orig­i­nal plan to run the M20 through Mal­low may be shelved in favour of a pro­posal to re-route it along part of the M8 as far as Tip­per­ary.

Cllr Mur­phy, who was co-opted onto the coun­cil’s Kan­turk/Mal­low dis­trict com­mit­tee ear­lier this year, said the im­por­tance of go­ing ahead with the orig­i­nal route “could not be un­der­stated”.

“This route is the only one that makes sense from many per­spec­tives – be they so­cial, eco­nomic or en­vi­ron­men­tal. Con­nect­ing Cork and Lim­er­ick by build­ing a mo­tor­way through the less pop­u­lous East Lim­er­ick would re­duce Ireland’s mo­tor­way pro­gramme to a mere box-tick­ing ex­er­cise and give the lie to any claims by the gov­ern­ment of ‘ru­ral-proof­ing’ its poli­cies,” he said.

“Not only would the towns di­rectly along the mo­tor­way be left out in the cold, but so would com­mu­ni­ties across the en­tire re­gion of north-west Cork as well as peo­ple and busi­nesses based in west Lim­er­ick wish­ing to ac­cess the Repub­lic’s sec­ond city.”

Cllr Mur­phy pointed out that 12% of the work­ing pop­u­la­tion of the Kan­turk/Mal­low area work in Cork City, with a fur­ther 7% trav­el­ling out­side of the county to get to their work­place.

“Prop­erty prices and rental pres­sures in the cities make this an eco­nom­i­cally sen­si­ble choice, while so­cial and fam­ily con­nec­tions to their home com­mu­ni­ties and the free­dom of a less ur­ban set­ting help to al­le­vi­ate the in­con­ve­niences of a daily com­mute. Good trans­port links con­nect­ing larger towns such as Mal­low and Charleville with nearby cities are es­sen­tial to make life out­side the city a vi­able op­tion for these peo­ple,” he said.

Cllr Mur­phy said the eco­nomic case for fol­low­ing the orig­i­nal route was a “per­haps the most ob­vi­ous of all” say­ing a mo­tor­way be­tween Mitchel­stown and Lim­er­ick City would pro­vide “vir­tu­ally none of the ben­e­fits” to the lo­cal econ­omy that a mo­tor­way through Mal­low and Charleville would.

“Mal­low has the largest em­ploy­ment base in the re­gion and the po­ten­tial for fur­ther growth with the ad­di­tion of a mo­tor­way is clear. Mean­while, Charleville is the only other town in north Cork with a pop­u­la­tion of over 3,000 not ser­viced by a mo­tor­way.”

He con­cluded by say­ing that the di­rect Mal­low/Charleville route would also be more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly as the Mitchel­stown route would add at least a fur­ther 10km to the jour­ney be­tween Cork and Lim­er­ick.

“Aside from the costs to mo­torists it would in­crease the car­bon foot­print of com­muters be­tween the two cities at a time when Ireland is strug­gling to meet our in­ter­na­tional emis­sions,” said Cllr Mur­phy.

He said for these rea­sons any al­ter­na­tive to the orig­i­nal plan for the M20 would be un­ac­cept­able.

“While it is vi­tal this project goes ahead it is equally im­por­tant that, as with any ma­jor cap­i­tal project, it is done right. The gov­ern­ment sim­ply can­not cut cor­ners in the in­ter­est of short-term sav­ing, which would lead to long-term cost through missed op­por­tu­ni­ties in north Cork.”

Cllr Gearóid Mur­phy.

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