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RE: Objection to the application made to Cork County Council for the temporary closing of the R610, Passage West for construction of a foul sewer pipe from 06.00 h Monday 13thAugust 2018 to 06.00 h Friday 7thSeptember 2018 (24 hour closure), Toureen House – Passage West library
The following petition was sent from the people of Passage West and Monkstown to Cork County Council in objection to the application for the temporary closing of the R610, Passage West for construction of a foul sewer pipe from 06.00 h Monday 13thAugust 2018 to 06.00 h Friday 7thSeptember 2018 (24 hour closure), Toureen House – Passage West library.
Because of the short time period allowed for submissions, this petition was available for signing in the town centres of Passage West and Monkstown for only 24 hours. Nonetheless, even in that short time, it allowed 688 people the opportunity to express their objection to the proposed total road closure. The reason for that objection was set out in the cover page:
Although we are a harbourside town and we welcome the cleaning up of Cork Harbour, this is the second time within a month that total closure of the R610 has been proposed to facilitate the installation of sewers. The first time, the proposed closure was from Glenbrook – Lucia Place for a period of two months. We strongly opposed it and it was withdrawn. A rethink was promised. This proposed closure is the first part of what would be an even longer closure of the Cork Road. We equally vehemently oppose this proposed road closure.
- The combination of total road closures proposed for the Cork Road would seriously impinge on the everyday lives of residents and would have a catastrophic impact on the viability of businesses, particularly in Passage West town centre.
- The combination of total road closures proposed for the Cork Road is likely to be even longer than that previously proposed for Glenbrook – Lucia Place.
- No information has been presented on the expected Glenbrook – Lucia Place closure. It is impossible for businesses and residents to evaluate the full impact of these proposed total road closures unless they are presented holistically. The likely reality is that the two total road closures could span a collective 4 – 6 months.
- The impact of any prolonged total road closure on business is far longer than the period of the closure itself. What is proposed in these road closures would close several businesses in Passage West town centre entirely and would catastrophically impact on all others.
- There is much concern that the advertised 18 km alternative route for emergency vehicles could place lives and property at risk.
- The 223 is the only public bus route through Passage West/Monkstown. The alternative proposed shuttle bus arrangements are unsatisfactory and would prohibit the bus from use as a reliable form of transport.
- The alternative route identified involves travelling the temporary road surface laid by Ward & Burke from Monkstown through Raffeen to the N28. Its poor quality has a costly and detrimental effect on vehicles.
- Neither the surface nor the width of our local roads could accommodate the diverted local traffic which would inevitably use them to avoid the 18 km advertised alternative route.
- Many working in the Ringaskiddy Strategic Employment Area commute through Passage West/Monkstown so as to avoid congestion on Carr’s Hill.The impact on the wider road network of forcing all commuting traffic through the Shannonpark roundabout has not been considered.
- A total road closure such as is being suggested for the R610 through Passage West would effectively shut down any town and is an entirely unprecedented proposal.
For over a year we have lived with significant inconvenience to accommodate the laying of sewers. We have tolerated the inconvenience because we understand the benefits of the Lower Harbour drainage scheme. Our town cannot withstand the burden of what is now proposed. We need more time so that businesses can employ expert engineering and legal advice. We need Ward and Burke/Ervia to use every resource to achieve real reductions in the length of time for which these total closures are proposed. Failing those deliverables, we call for Ervia/Irish Water to return to the planning process to seek approval for an alternative route by which the sewer can be brought through Passage West – a route that will keep the R610 open.
“That planning legislation would be amended to require all members of An Bord Pleanála appointed by the Minister to be qualified in a planning or planning-related field and to have demonstrated long-standing experience and interest in the planning system. This is to ensure that the Board can uphold its core function, i.e. to provide, in the interests of the common good, for proper planning and sustainable development”
An Bord Pleanála, the highest planning authority in the land, is responsible for the determination of appeals and other matters under the Planning & Development Act 2000. This Act has one main purpose: to provide for proper planning and sustainable development in the interest of the common good.
One would imagine, therefore, that members of the Board would have a long-demonstrated expertise in planning, both by qualification and practice. In fact though, this is not always the case.
The Board is made up of a chairperson appointed by the government and 9 ordinary Board members appointed by the Minister for the Environment. Those 9 are selected from nominations from organisations prescribed in secondary legislation. This appointments process is intended for the Board to represent a range of societal perspectives. But the legislation is written in such a way that none of the Board members have to be planners. Two members are to be chosen from prescribed organisations representative of professions in the fields of planning, engineering or architecture. That is as close as it gets. There are no qualifications as such for membership of the Board. The prescribed bodies are given no statutory guidance regarding how to go about selecting their nominees. In essence, the procedure for appointment of ordinary Board members is somewhat akin to the procedure for appointment of directors of state-sponsored bodies generally, in that the Minister is empowered to use his discretion as to whom he appoints.
The chairperson is not required to be a planner either. A person nominated as chair must have “special knowledge and experience and other qualifications or personal qualities” which the appointing committee considers appropriate to enable them to effectively perform as the chair. But the legislation doesn’t mention planning.
When the P&D Act was passed, we had a Board comprising a chair and 9 members all of whom had qualifications and experience in planning or architecture. At present, we have a Board of whom 3 ordinary members is a planner and 1 is an architect. That is 4 out of 10. That is not to say that all members are not experts in their fields but it seems to me imperative that for the highest planning authority in the land, at least a majority would have an expertise in planning.
When the Board is deciding on a planning appeal, the quorum for a meeting is 2. So it is entirely feasible that a decision is taken by two people who, although undoubtedly highly qualified in their own fields, are not planners. Planning applications made under the Strategic Infrastructure Act go directly to the Board. The Strategic Infrastructure Division of the Board comprises the Chair of the Board, the deputy Chair and 3 ordinary members. A quorum for a meeting of the Strategic Infrastructure Division is 3. So it is entirely feasible that for these generally big projects which can often have a long-term, significant impact on the neighbourhoods for which they are proposed, a decision on determining whether they are proper planning and sustainable development, can be taken in the absence of a planner.
Of course all Board decisions are informed by a planning inspector who will have examined the planning proposal in detail but the Board is at liberty to overturn the recommendation of that planning inspector. The most recent high profile overturning of an Senior Planning Inspector’s recommendation by the Board was in the granting of planning permission to the proposed incinerator at Ringaskiddy. In this case, the decision was taken was taken by 7 members of the Board, only 2 of whom are planners or architects. The other two planners on the Board were excluded from taking part in any meetings pertaining to the application or to the final decision-making.
The Board is required to implement government policy but each proposal must be evaluated and considered in the context of proper planning and sustainable development. To do that, it is critical that Board members would have qualifications and experience in planning or at the very least, be capable of demonstrating long-standing experience and interest in the planning field. This request has been made previously by the Royal Town Planning Institute of Ireland, I echo it now and I ask that all Members would support me in that.