COUNCILLOR MAKES 'MOST DIFFICULT DECISION' AS ACCESS DISPUTE ENDS
“The most difficult decision I have faced in my time as a councillor,” Fine Gael’s Aileen Pyne said as Cork County Council narrowly voted against closing the contentious Duntahane Road pedestrian access in Fermoy.
The decision brings to an end months of meetings, arguments and counterarguments around the access between the Duntahane Road and the local relief road, opened last year.
The vote by councillors backed a report by Flan Groarke, senior executive engineer with Cork County Council. Mr Groarke recommended, based on a policy of maintaining free and open access to the public and avoiding unnecessary pedestrian diversions, that the current access should be kept as it is.
In proposing that the access be closed Cllr Pyne highlighted condition 30 of An Bord Pleanala’s decision in 1990 to allow developers to open up the former cul de sac in Duntahane Road. That condition stipulates that Duntahane Road was to be returned to its former state once the local relief road was opened.
Cllr Pyne further claimed that the planning for the pedestrian access was ‘introduced by stealth’ in the overall plans for the relief road, and that there was no mention of the access in plans or maps released by Cork County Council. She added that there was no record of Duntahane Road residents agreeing to the provision of a pedestrian access to the relief road.
Cllr Pyne argued that it was unfair to the residents of Duntahane Road, who supplied her with a list of questions on the procedures that led to the access being granted unbeknownst to them, to go ahead with the project when it appeared that no avenue for submissions on the access was made available to them.
The majority of councillors, however, sided with the engineer’s report. Fianna Fail Councillor Kevin O’Keeffe backed Mr Groarke’s recommendation on what he described as ‘a thorny issue’ while party colleague Cllr Frank O’Flynn echoed Cllr Pyne’s comments by describing the issue as ‘one of the hardest’ he has faced in his time on the council.
He added that he was disappointed that a recent meeting between the residents of Duntahane Road and Duntahane Park could not find a compromise, the latter group campaigning to maintain the access following a deputation from Duntahane Road residents to Cork County Council last March seeking to restore the road’s prior status.
Both Councillors O’Keeffe and O’Flynn voted in favour of the engineer’s report, as did Cllr Jerry Mullally, Cllr Liam O’Doherty and Cllr Noel O’Connor, who said he was voting for the sake of children who would have to walk a longer route should the access be closed.
With only Cllr Tom Sheahan supporting, Cllr Pyne’s motion was defeated by five votes to two. Cllr Dan Joe Fitzgerald and Mallow Mayor James Kennedy abstained from the vote.
While disagreeing with his colleague in the council over the vote, Cllr O’Keeffe supported Cllr Pyne’s wish to have answers for the residents of Duntahane Road as to what procedure Cork County Council followed in relation to approving the access in the first place.
All councillors aired their regret that the situation had gone so far without the communities coming to an agreement between them and expressed their hope that the different groups could put the disagreement behind them now that the issue had been resolved by the council.
Thursday 11th September 6:50pm