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Dublin: 10 °C Thursday 23 May, 2019
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Did councillors agree to put a 'mini M50 bridge' through a park because they didn't know it was a park?

Not really. But it’s complicated.

The M50 toll bridge
The M50 toll bridge
Image: RollingNews.ie

TWO COUNTY COUNCILS have sought to assuage fears that a major link road will be built through a popular park on the Dublin-Kildare border.

St Catherine’s Park straddles the border between Fingal, South Dublin and Kildare local authorities. Its 200 acres were officially opened in 2014 after a €600,000 investment by Fingal and €33,000 in locally raised funds.

However, residents now fear that a recently adopted development plan could see a road built through the park.

The road would link the N3 from Ongar to the N4 outside Leixlip. A map included in the recently-approved Fingal Development Plan shows the road dissecting the park, effectively cutting the Leixlip side and Westmanstown/Lucan sides in half.

If it followed the proposed route, it would require a bridge to span over the Liffey Valley, Royal Canal and Maynooth rail line. Residents say that it would be at least four lanes.

It has caused some consternation locally in recent months, with around 1,000 locals taking part in a protest on Sunday, voicing their opposition to the plan.

No decision

Catherines This image shows the proposed road entering the park. The label for the park is just below the red circle.

Despite that local opposition, Fingal County Council and Kildare County Council both say that even though the road is on the map, it is merely a statement that the building of a road is an objective.

A Fingal statement said:

All road proposals on the County Development Plan are indicative, meaning that the exact route has not yet been decided.

The statement points out that a plan to link the N3 and N4 has been an objective of Fingal’s since 2005.

The N3-N4 link road is an indicative line on the development plan map and any routing of the road will require a feasibility assessment, constraints mapping, and examination of options. The only part of the road which is indicated on the current development plan that is built is within the zoned lands at Hansfield (Ongar) to serve the existing schools and residential development.

The council points out that a similar plan to link the N2 and N3 has already been completed on the northern side of the greater Blanchardstown area.

Likewise, Kildare County Council says:

The proposed link road between the M3 and M4 involves three local authorities (Fingal, South Dublin and Kildare) – nothing has been decided on the routing at this stage.

Confusion

PastedImage-47797 Source: Save St Catherine's Park via Facebook

The proposals for the road are complicated because of the fact that three local authorities are involved and that the road would allow both councils release large swathes of land for housing.

Brendan Young, a Solidarity councillor in Kildare says that there is “more in it” for his local authority, allowing the release of lands around Confey to developed.

He told TheJournal.ie that the unanimously adopted Fingal plan may have confused some councillors.

The park isn’t marked that clearly on the map so some people might not realise the road goes through it. Some of the councillors didn’t realise that it would go through it.

TheJournal.ie asked all 40 councillors on Fingal County Council if they realised the proposed road would go through the park. Eight councillors responded.

Of those that did, three said that they did not realise that the park would be affected. Others said that they broadly support the development plan, they would not support a road through the park.

Green Party Councillor Roderic O’Gorman said that he envisaged the road being brought through Leixlip around the current Intel site.

Routes for future roads marked like this are understood as being indicative. Indeed, during the recent development plan process, we had a long debate about the status of indicative lines for cycle routes. As such, I still support our new development plan.

“Since residents in Leixlip started to raise their concerns about the fact that the Fingal Map indicates a road going through the Kildare CC section of St Catherine’s Park, I have been in touch with the Fingal planners. They again have emphasised that this route is indicative and there is no current funding stream to develop this road.”

Fine Gael’s Kieran Dennison said:

The line on the map referred to is just an indicative line drawn by the planners for a proposed N3/N4 link road. This is much needed infrastructure which I support. The old country roads in the area are becoming more and more dangerous as traffic levels increase again.

Social Democrat Cian O’Callaghan added:

I won’t support any proposals to undermine St Catherine’s Park by constructing a road through it. The park which is a wonderful amenity for the people of West Dublin and Kildare was provided after a hard-fought campaign by local communities and residents.

“All road proposals on the county development plan are indicative, meaning that the exact route has not yet been decided.”

Independent Keith Redmond said he would be ‘surprised’ if the plan was approved.

A road line like this on a development plan is not a definitive route, it’s merely indicative of a desire to fulfill a function, in this case link the N3/N4. It essentially marks out a future desire that will have to undergo the full planning process. I’d be highly surprised if a planning authority or  [An Bord Pleanála] would allow a well-used park be bisected in that process.

Protest

20170507_132243 Protesters at St Catherine's Park on Sunday. Source: Emer McCormack

So, if the road is simply a dotted line outlining a future wish, why were 1,000 people protesting on a Sunday?

Ann Field established the Save St Catherine’s Park Facebook page back in March and led the weekend demonstration.

She told TheJournal.ie that residents fear the building of a bridge over the park for a number of reasons.

It would have to have two bridges, that would have to be 30 or 40 feet in incline on either side and through the park. So it would be massive.

“There’s a special amenity area order for the Liffey Valley, so it does not tally that you would build through it. They’ve put massive amounts of money into it and St Catherine’s Park.

If you go to the dog run in St Catherine’s, you can look out over Dublin. That’s a valley, you’re talking about a mini M50 bridge to go across it. It’s literally going to destroy the park.

“You have noise, pollution, everything – haulage vehicles would use it the most. People would have to drive to the park from Leixlip.”

Field says that she “isn’t buying” the idea that the road on the maps isn’t the road in reality.

“They’ve no other line – it’s not possible to do it. These plans have been there since 2006. It is not and has not been a dormant dotted line.

We didn’t walk for a dotted line through a map. They must think people are stupid.

Addressing the protest, Fingal said that the park is an important part of the county.

“The protest march in St. Catherine’s Park at the weekend in response to an indicative road proposal in the Fingal Development Plan 2017-2023 is acknowledged. St Catherine’s Park is recognised as a very valuable resource for the people of Fingal, South Dublin and Kildare.

The Park is identified as a regional park in Fingal and is an important part of Fingal’s open space strategy. The Council and the community have put much thought, work and commitment into its continued development for the benefit of all and will continue to do so.

That falls short of what Field and many campaigners want.

“I’m not buying it at all. I find that extremely insulting,” she said.

“We want a public declaration of their commitment not to build a road through the park. Nothing else. That will suffice.”

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