THE communities of Douglas and Rochestown will be split forever should the M28 project go ahead as planned, representatives from An Bord Pleanala have heard.
More than 200 people attended the first day of the oral hearing over the future of the M28 Cork to Ringaskiddy motorway project at the Ambassador Hotel.
Representatives from An Bord Pleanala, Cork County Council and the M28 Steering Group, who represents 10,000 residents in Mount Oval, Maryborough Hill, Rochestown, Carr’s Hill and Douglas, were in attendance as well as residents of the surrounding areas.
The proposed €180 million motorway scheme consists of an upgrade of roughly 12.5km of the current N28 route to include 10.9km of motorway, 1.6km of single carriageway and four junctions at Bloomfield/Rochestown Road, Carr’s Hill, Shannon Park and Shanbally.
The scheme also includes the removal of the existing merger lane at Maryborough Hill.
An Bord Pleanala received 139 submissions on the project, of which 48 included objections.
Those in favour of the project, such as IBEC, BioPharmaChem Ireland, Deputy Chief Executive of Cork City Council Pat Ledwidge and the Port of Cork, said it will boost economic growth and is needed for strategic development in the region.
However, objectors say it will devalue homes, seriously impact upon the local residents’ mental and physical health, through noise and pollution, and that it will damage the surrounding environment.
Resident of Lissadell Tommy Kelly told the hearing: “We have a fantastic community spirit within the Greater Douglas area but we’re now talking about a motorway splitting our community.
“We are now gone on to a situation where we are talking about motorways; Motorways going through and separating our community that has been evolving over the last 20 years.”
BioPharmaChem Ireland representative Orla Casey told the hearing the project was closely monitored by the company, who represents several employers in biopharma and chemicals in Cork.
“The provision or otherwise is being closely followed by BioPharmaChem Ireland members and it impacts largely on their future planning and decisions in the Cork region,” Ms Casey said.
“The non-provision of the motorway scheme has potential to increase international reputational damage if unduly delayed.”
Fine Gael Senator and member of the M28 Steering Group Jerry Buttimer told the hearing the residents are not against the M28 project but would like an alternative to be considered.
“The residents are not against the M28 route per say, they are supportive of the principle of the route because we all recognise the economic benefit to the region. However, the residents have profound concerns which are real and tangible.”
142 hectares of land have been identified for compulsory purchase orders should the current proposals pass, affecting 82 landowners.
Details of these purchase orders will be discussed next Tuesday, November 14.
During the first day of the hearing, Cork County Council confirmed there are no plans to install traffic lights at the Fingerpost roundabout, a point of considerable concern for local residents to the area who believed the roundabout would be removed for a junction.
As the hearing continues today, the M28 Steering Group is expected to refute the evidence given by applicants and challenge the estimated cost of the project.
ONE of the many people who has raised concerns is Maureen O’Byrne, a resident of Douglas for almost 40 years.
Ms O’Byrne and her husband Fergal, both in their eighties, live in Maryborough Heights. The couple live with their daughter and young granddaughter, who is on the autistic spectrum.
“This proposal poses a serious threat, both to our physical and mental health and life expectancy,” she told the hearing.
“To the objective observer, this proposal is an overkill in terms of its destruction, both physical and social, to a beautiful suburb for a few, short kilometres of motorway. The back of the N28 comes 150 feet from our back door. Trees were planted behind our fence by Cork County Council in an effort to slightly reduce the noise level of the present road.
“These trees are now to be cut down, leaving us devoid of any noise barrier between us and the proposed motorway.”
There was a wooded valley behind her home when she purchased it in 1979 but ten years later the South Ring was built. She explained: “10,000 cars a day it was estimated to travel on that road — 25,000 were using it within a few short months.”
Double glazing installed at their own expense has failed to block out the noise from the South Ring in their home, Ms O’Byrne added.
“Now after close to 40 years living there, we are being told we must endure a massive expansion of this road for the convenience of articulated trucks which will travel 24-7, 30 to 40 feet closer to our homes, in fact directly below our garden fence. We will be subject to noise levels on a 24-hour basis that will damage our health. The levels of pollution far exceeded what is permissible under EU law and our houses will become so devalued, they will be unsellable.”
Both she and her husband are in their eighties, she explained. “We already suffer from respiratory problems. Our grandchild is on the autism spectrum and finds the existing noise intolerable. We can’t open her bedroom window.
“This proposal tramples on the civil rights of some 10,000 people. It takes from them all their rights to a good environment in which to raise families and it will drastically devalue their properties. The proposed expansion of the M28 will seriously damage our reasonable expectation and human right to enjoy living where we live.”