By Noel Dundon
The route for the proposed Thurles by-pass will be announced in September despite the fact that Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has ordered the project to be put on hold, along with 44 others across the country.
Considerable frustration has been expressed locally at the move by the Minister who instructed the National Roads Authority to place the 45 projects on the back burner. And, there were fears that the move could have severe implications for live planning applications in the immediate locality with applicants having had to endure sterilisation of adjoining lands for a number of years. There were also fears that high profile proposed developments such as Tesco at Turtulla and the establishment of an An Post distribution centre, also at Turtulla, could go by the wayside, were the route selection process to continue indefinitely.
However, The Tipperary Star understands that the National Roads Authority (NRA) will now announce the preferred route for the by-pass in September, eventhough doubt surrounds about when the roadway will actually go forward for sanctioning. At least when this announcement is made, lands not affected by the by-pass can then be assessed in terms of planning applications, thereby freeing up hundreds of acres of sterilised land. It is thought that more than 30 individual applications are affected by the crux.
Director of Services for North Tipperary County Council, Mr Marcus O’Connor, told us this week, “The route selection will go ahead as planned and we are told that we will have a definite announcement on this in September. This has been deferred on a number of occasions but we have been informed that it will definitely be decided by then. The next step then, will be for us to include the route in the Thurles and Environs Development Plan and at least then that body of work is completed and ready for whenever the NRA gets the go ahead to proceed with such projects,” Mr O’Connor said.
Fears that the huge amount of work - costing almost 2 million Euro already - would be gone to waste, were allayed by Mr O’Connor who added that if things began to move again in terms of the provision of funding for by-passes of this nature, Thurles would have the route selection done and would be ready to move on to the next phase immediately.
“The work we have done, had to be done and will not have to be done again now. That means that we are ready to move forward, if and when, things improve and funds come available,” Mr O’Connor said.
Mayor of Thurles, Cllr John Kennedy, said that he was very disappointed with the announcement by Minister Varadkar and stated that the by-pass is a very necessary piece of infrastructure in order for the town to grow.
“I’m concerned about the implications of this because I know a lot of people are worried about the affects this delay will have. As Mayor, I will be calling on my Labour party colleague, Minister Alan Kelly to ensure that Thurles is looked after in this regard. I suppose this news brings into focus the need for an enhanced traffic management plan in Thurles as well, now that we know the by-pass has been put on hold. We will be examining all of this in the coming weeks,” Mayor Kennedy said.