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Brakes put on Wilton Road plans

Wednesday, 10th July, 2019 5:05pm

By Michael Olney and Niamh Áine Ryan

The residents of Wilton Road are celebrating a big victory in City Hall this week, but they fear they are not out of the woods yet.

After months of protesting against the controversial Wilton Corridor Project, residents watched on from the gallery as the City Council voted against the proposal by a count of 16 to eight, with Sinn Féin, Solidarity's Fiona Ryan and the Green Party backing the project.

Speaking to the Cork Independent, John Bowman, Public Relations Officer for Wilton Community Action Group, said: “The shout that went up in the gallery yesterday was just amazing. We're in good form, but we're not being too self-congratulatory because they're going to come hunting for us again.

“One of the councillors insisted that it goes back before the roads division in September, which is fine because we know something's got to change, but we want a seat at the table,” said Mr Bowman.

The project, which was announced in March, set out to widen a section of Wilton Road to accommodate six lanes of traffic, including two bus lanes and two cycle lanes, to alleviate traffic issues in the area.

However, local residents, some of whom stood to lose up to seven metres of garden space, felt that they were not being fully informed of the plans.

“This is our road and our home and we want to be involved in any process that is going to fundamentally change that road, and I don't think it's much to ask for,” said Mr Bowman.

He added: “We're going to be going back to them well armed with a whole raft of very good alternatives.”

Council vote and protest

Prior to the vote on Monday, residents of all ages brought their fight to the steps of City Hall.

Louise Wood from Model Farm Road told the newspaper she was against the plan because she felt that the residents were being “compromised”.

She added: “Cork needs to increase green spaces, like shrubbery and trees, which gobble up carbon and instead the plan here is to widen streets and facilitate more traffic.”

Inside City Hall, there was a lengthy debate on whether the plan should be given the green light or not with most councillors who were against the project criticising the lack of an overall plan, rather than just one section of Wilton Road.

Fianna Fáil Cllr Fergal dennehy said: “No one has seen an overall plan. I don’t believe the works will be of any huge benefit. I certainly welcome cycle lanes but not at the loss of seven metres of someone's garden.”

Fine Gael's Derry Canty said he met with many residents: “They are deeply worried about what is going to happen. I ask for this to be withdrawn because there is no overall plan for the area.”

“You widened it and then you being it all back into one. If the plan went from Victoria Cross to the Wilton Road Roundabout, we might find it harder to vote against it.”

Green Party Cllr Colette Finn said she while it was a controversial plan, it needed to be looked in terms of the overall transport plan for Cork city, not just this phase. She and her partymate Oliver Moran said they would vote for it based on the improvements to cycle and bus lanes.

Solidarity's Fiona Ryan was also in favour of the plan as she believed it would get people out of their cars.

Sinn Féin Cllr Henry Cremin said some residents were in favour of the plan and he was for it too so as traffic issues in Bishopstown could be tackled. He said this phase would lead to other phases which would help ease traffic in the area. Describing the traffic issues, he said: “A monster was created in Bishopstown in the past few years.”

Head of Roads and Transportation with Cork City Council Gerry O’Beirne said it is a stand alone scheme and is justified in its own right.

“For there to be proper junctions on that road, we need to acquire land. It would be a pity not to go ahead with the plan when the funding has been made available for it,” he said.

“The problems at Dennehy's Cross are of particular importance and warrant an immediate stand alone response in advance of any possible future corridor projects. This approach has been supported by the council and in response the National Transport Authority has provided the necessary funding for the proposed works,” he added.

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