Public consultation on N52 Ardee Bypass takes place next week
Over €8.1 million has been spent so far on the planned N52 Ardee Bypass road, as local opposition took their concerns to the Dáil last week.
The N52 Ardee Bypass, which is planned to cut through Ardee bog, has received significant attention with the return of the Dáil on Wednesday, September 15th, with protestors from Friends of Ardee Bog and Extinction Rebellion showing their opposition to the project.
However, there is significant political support for the N52 in Louth, with Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd and Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick both backing the road to be built.
In questions put to Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, both deputies sought an update to the progress on the road, with Deputy O’Dowd saying it was “critical” that the road be built.
“Ardee town has been choked with traffic for decades. Fumes and heavy goods vehicles clog the town. It is critical that the bypass be built,” said Deputy O’Dowd.
According to the Minister, there has been over €8.1 million spent on the project up to August 2021.
The road was originally granted planning permission in 2006, with Minister Ryan saying that the current section of the N52 in Ardee is “not fit for purpose”.
“This current section of the N52 is arguably not fully fit for purpose with the town of Ardee being subject to congestion particularly at peak periods,” said Minister Ryan.
“The route serves both passenger and freight traffic every day, and the legacy infrastructure is causing daily delays and journey time uncertainty for road users.”
“We have a significant funding problem, but this type of project, which promotes town centres such as Ardee is, to my mind, a real priority. If we can overcome the planning difficulties, I believe funding can be provided.”
Deputy Peter Fitzpatrick said that people in Ardee had been given nothing but “empty promises” on the road since planning permission was first granted to the project, and sought a visit from the Minister to the town to meet locals.
Deputy O’Dowd said that Minister Ryan’s responses were not providing certainty that the road would be built as part of the National Development Plan.
“I welcome the Minister's commitment to towns but I do not hear his absolute commitment to Ardee. I still hear ambiguity in what he is saying,” said Deputy O’Dowd.
“The people of Ardee will not accept that it should be changed, after waiting decades for this development. It is a wonderful location with an awful lot to offer but the quality of life has been affected by the fumes and heavy goods vehicles.
“I do not accept that it may be excluded in the next round of funding when it is clearly and absolutely identified for funding in this round.”
Fine Gael's Fergus O'Dowd has called for the development to go ahead
In response, Minister Ryan said that if everything identified in the National Development Plan was built, the NDP would be ten times over budget, but bypasses like the N52 Bypass are more likely to be selected.
However, despite the political will from some representatives to ensure the project goes ahead, there are concerns from locals around the bypass.
Friends of Ardee Bog, a local ecological group that wants to protect Ardee Bog, have raised issues with the planned route, which will cut through the bog.
They held a protest outside the Dáil on Wednesday, September 15th, in opposition to the proposed route.
They delivered their petition to Minister for State Malcolm Noonan, which had 10,700 signatures, from local residents and other supporters like prominent environmental activist Saoirse McHugh.
According to the group, they are worried about the native curlew population that inhabit the bog and fear that the bird could be wiped out from the area.
The Curlew Task Force has said that there has been a 96% decline in their population since the 1980s and that the bird could become extinct within the next five to ten years.
“We are running out of time. Curlews are on the brink of extinction in Ireland,” said Anne Lennon of Friends of Ardee Bog.
“Lose the peatland that supports them and you lose a vital ecosystem needed by humanity as much as nature.”
The Irish Peatland Conservation Council (IPCC) says “Ardee Bog is the very last and most easterly raised bog within County Louth and the Republic of Ireland.”
In questioning from both Deputy O’Dowd and Deputy Fitzpatrick, Minister Ryan told the Dáil that the next steps for the construction of the road would be an application for a Compulsive Purchase Order if needed.
If this was carried out, Minister Ryan expected that the tender for the construction could be set in place by late 2022.
“On this basis, Louth County Council could be in a position to tender the main construction contract for the scheme in Quarter 3 2022 which could allow a potential construction start date in Q3 2023 with completion in Q4 2025,” said Minister Ryan.
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