Thursday, 29 September 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
10. Deputy Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he has been notified of an application by Wexford County Council for an additional €3 million in funding for the Oilgate to Rosslare motorway project, County Wexford; the action he will take regarding such an application; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26565/11]
Deputy Leo Varadkar: As Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I have responsibility for overall policy and funding of the national roads programme. The planning, design and implementation of individual road projects is a matter for the National Roads Authority under the Roads Acts 1993 to 2007, in conjunction with the local authorities concerned.
Within its capital budget, the assessment and prioritisation of individual projects including the N11-N25 Oilgate to Rosslare Harbour scheme is a matter for the NRA in accordance with section 19 of the Roads Act.
In the overall context, the Deputy will be aware that a comprehensive review of capital spending is now under way, the results of which will form the basis for a new national development plan. The review will also take account of new funding realities. A major priority will be to ensure funding to protect and maintain the investment made to date and to maintain safety standards. It is clear there will be little scope to advance, in the short to medium term, many of the infrastructural projects currently in planning.
Given that the allocation of the funding referred to by the Deputy is statutorily a matter for the NRA, I will refer the Deputy’s question to the NRA for direct reply. I ask him please to advise my private office if he does not receive a reply within ten working days.
Deputy Mick Wallace: The Minister will know that €2 million of taxpayers’ money has been expended on choosing the route for a road we cannot afford to build. A 300 m corridor is currently in place. In the parish of Crossabeg alone, on the north side of Wexford town, 60 houses and 30 landowners are not in a position to move or sell their properties because of the proposed motorway. That 300 m corridor, for all practical purposes, is sterilised and it is impossible for the people concerned to sell anything. This is a significant problem, given that the motorway, if it is ever built, is a long time away.
As regards the matter of the €3 million, Mott MacDonald were the consultants hired to report on the viability of building stage three of the project to reduce the corridor and they will also be doing the work. These guys were given the €2 million in the first place and they will get the €3 million next time. If any area is to be sterilised, the locals would prefer an area of 60 m rather than 300 m but the most favourable option would be to have no sterilisation.
I understand the point made by the Minister and I agree that a shopping centre should not be permitted within this 300 m corridor — that is fair enough — but the notion that houses and land are sterilised and frozen in this chosen area is a bit outrageous when it is probable the motorway will never be built.
Deputy Leo Varadkar: I am conscious of the difficulties that arise in this case. This is a very wide corridor of 300 m to 400 m, which if narrowed down to a more precise corridor would make life easier for many of the landowners in the area. I can understand their predicament. Unfortunately, there are about 20 other roads in a similar position and if I spend €3 million to narrow a corridor on each of these roads, this would cost €30 million or €40 million. I question if this money would be well spent in narrowing a big corridor down to a smaller corridor or whether that money would be better spent building a bypass which would make life better for a whole town or whether it should be spent on road maintenance. We will struggle to afford the maintenance costs in the coming years. It is my judgment call whether to spend €20 million to €40 million in the next number of years to employ architects, planners and consultants to narrow corridors or to spend it on maintaining roads and building bypasses.
Deputy Mick Wallace: I would not blame the Minister for not spending €3 million in narrowing the corridor but to be fair to the people who live in the 300 m corridor, will he agree this land should not be sterilised? It is very unfair to leave it sterilised for such a long period of time. There are too many citizens involved, with 60 houses and 30 landowners in this one parish and a great number of people are affected. It is unfair to them. This is an NRA project and the Government should decide that none of the land should be sterilised. I would not blame the Minister for not spending €3 million.
Deputy Leo Varadkar: I do not think the area should be sterilised. In my view, the NRA and the local authorities need to be pragmatic when it comes to planning applications in cases such as this. Both my Department and I will need to study this aspect more closely. It is the case in the UK that the rules are quite different and people can claim planning blight and say that the authorities there cannot hold reservations of land for such a long period, that they must either buy the land or leave the landowner alone. We will need to do some work in that regard to see what options exist.
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