The M28 will provide better connectivity but it will impact on the lives of those who live in close proximity to it. Maeve Lee looks at the aftermath of the decision that will allow it to proceed.
“We’ve done our bit and we can’t do any more.”
With the way cleared for the construction of the much-debated M28 Cork to Ringaskiddy project, the steering group challenging the plans have had to accept the decision of the highest court in the land, while others look forward to the prospects the motorway’s construction will bring for Cork.
The M28 Cork to Ringaskiddy Project is the upgrade of approximately 12.5km of the N28 National Primary Route from the N40 South Ring Road, at Bloomfield Interchange.
Earlier this month, the way was cleared for construction to begin on the M28 Cork to Ringsakiddy motorway as a legal challenge which was brought by local residents to An Bord Pleanála’s green light for the planned €250m project came to an end.
The Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Mary Linehan-Foley, welcomed the news earlier this month, describing the project as “critical both nationally and for the entire Cork region” and noted its specific identification in the National Development Plan, part of the Government’s Project Ireland 2040.
Residents in the areas along the route formed the M28 Steering Group back in 2016. The group represented more than 10,000 residents in the Maryborough Hill, Rochestown, Carrs Hill, Bloomfield, Mount Oval, Clarke’s Hill and general Douglas area.
In November, the umbrella group were informed in the High Court that their legal challenge to An Bord Pleanála’s approval of the motorway could not be appealed.
At the time, chair of the steering group, Ger Harrington told The Echo that they would continue to proceed with the matter with a petition to the Supreme Court.
If it was to go no further, he said it would be “game over” for the group as they would then have exhausted all avenues.
On March 2, 2021, this point was reached as the steering group were informed that their petition to the Supreme Court was not accepted.
Reflecting on the Supreme Court decision, Mr Harrington said that the group have had to reluctantly accept it and move on.
“The reality here is that the highest court in the land has ruled in their favour. We accept it. We mightn’t like it, but we accept it."
“Our group fully accepts it very, very reluctantly, that the court has ruled against us and so, that’s it.”
Mr Harrington said that the group are now “completely off the pitch”.
“We’ve done our bit and we can’t do any more and that’s it really,” he added.
The group first came together to look at and identify any potential issues that may arise with the proposed plans for the M28 motorway. Mr Harrington described the main issue on day one as environmental health and particularly noise and air pollution as a result of the plans.
“They were the three key things for us: air pollution, noise pollution and traffic congestion. They were the three key things.
“Biodiversity came then, in that order,” he added.
Mr Harrington stressed that the group were never against the motorway but rather certain elements.
“We were never against the road. We are not against it and we never will be.
"That’s not the issue and we accept the decision, albeit it very, very reluctantly but we accept the decision, and the motorway has to be built and if it goes ahead then we will have to suck it up.”
Local councillor Mary Rose Desmond noted the potential impact the proposed plans outlined for local residents at the beginning of the process and public consultation.
“It was no news to us that the motorway had been planned always from Ringaskiddy but with regards to the impact of it, it was very obvious straight away certainly that people need to be aware of what it was and they were very quickly aware,” she said.
Cllr Desmond said that some changes were made to the initial route over time.
“But without question, while the motorway is needed, the route of this motorway will have a very, very live and real impact on people’s homes."
Upon learning of the Supreme Court decision earlier this month, Cllr Desmond had said that she had hoped a compromise could have been reached with local residents.
She said that the plans for motorway along the route were always known and that by halting some of the further development along the corridor, some of the concerns raised by residents may have been prevented. “It is no surprise that there is due to be a motorway there so really, in hindsight and looking back, planning shouldn’t have allowed people build their homes unwittingly, right up on to what was going to be a motorway.”
Cllr Desmond noted the delays the legal challenges caused with the progression of the motorway.
“I know that people may have been frustrated with regards to this taking a period of time to go through, but I think when people are protecting their homes, they’re entitled to do that.”
With the path now cleared for the project to commence, the significance of the motorway for Cork and the Munster region has been noted.
Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy had described the M28 motorway as an “essential piece of infrastructure, which is of national and regional importance”.
Speaking to The Echo, he said: “This is a project which is of huge importance to not just the Cork region but the wider Munster region and in the context of the Port of Cork, is of national significance so we very much welcome that it is now possible for the project to proceed.”
With the National Development Plan currently under review, Mr Healy said that he hopes it will prioritise the plans for the motorway and the allocation of necessary resources to drive the project.
“We certainly expect that this project will be high on the priority list for the National Development Plan and that government will then reaffirm its commitment and its funding to see it move on to the next stage.
“I think that’s really important because a number of other projects are depending on this moving forward, most notably the Port of Cork.”
He said that they are anxious for it to move forward and noted how the motorway can allow for the facilitation of the development of the city docklands, port activities and the development of the industry base in Ringaskiddy in addition to facilitating commuting along the busy corridor.
The scheme aims to improve access for communities and industries in the Carrigaline and Ringaskiddy area and is part of an all-round approach to safe and sustainable transport for the Cork region that includes the Carrigaline Western Relief Road, the Cork Harbour Greenway and the ongoing Dunkettle Interchange upgrade. It aims to support the strategic development of the port facilities at Ringaskiddy, including the relocation of the container terminal from Tivoli to Ringaskiddy which has been described as is vital for connecting the region to Europe following Brexit.
Following the decision by the Supreme Court, Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr Mary Linehan-Foley, said that the detailed design and tendering process will now begin with works including fencing, service diversions and archaeology expected to commence in the next year.