Full Text of My Submission to the An Bord Pleanala Oral Hearing into the Central Access Scheme

Hi

The following is the full unedited text of my submission to the Oral Hearing into the Proposed Central Access Scheme (Inner Relief Road) for Kilkenny. The dust has well settled on it now and I feel quite proud of our group and our input into the hearing, regardless of the outcome. Its been a long campaign for me, over twelve years now! I’m just glad its out of the way, we hope to have some word by mid Februrary.

I also want to say a big thanks for all the messages, texts and words of encourgagement from people in Kilkenny and beyond. It meant a lot when I was under fire at Council meetings to know that most of the people of Kilkenny think its just daft to scar such a beautiful city with a road to nowhere.

Submission to Oral Hearing by An Bord Pleanala

Central Access Scheme (Inner Relief Road) for Kilkenny City

Planning Ref: PL 10.HA0014

Held at Kilkenny Ormonde Hotel, Kilkenny

Commencing December 1st 2008

Statement from

Cllr Malcolm Noonan, Member of Kilkenny County Council, Kilkenny Borough Council

3rd December 2008

My Name is Malcolm Noonan. I am a Landscape Gardener by profession and hold an Honours Degree in Sustainable Rural Development from Tipperary Institute. I have served as a Director of Friends of the Earth Ireland for 8 years and have been an Elected Member of Kilkenny Borough Council and Kilkenny County Council since 2004. Among other directorships I serve as a director of Kilkenny Tourism and Kilkenny County Enterprise Board and Chair the Natural Heritage Group of the Kilkenny Heritage Forum.

Mr Inspector

I would like to thank yourself and An Bord Pleanala for affording me the opportunity to put my views on record with regard to this proposed scheme. Could I firstly make an important point of clarification in relation to my involvement in this process to date.

I want to address a number of comments made here on Monday and again yesterday in relation to elected members support for the scheme. There is an inference from these comments that there is universal endorsement of the proposed Central Access Scheme among the Elected Members of both Local Authorities. This is misleading.

This plan has been Council Policy for many years now, due process was always observed and I knew that the only forum open to me to challenge the scheme was the one we are attending here today.

Could I state for the record Mr Chairman that at no time since I became a member of both Local Authorities was a formal vote ever put to members regarding endorsement of the scheme now in front of us and if it had, my vote would have been against. At every briefing meeting and at statutory meetings I have consistently voiced my outright opposition to the CAS. Indeed at a meeting of Kilkenny Borough Council earlier this year, I asked that the minutes of the previous months meeting be changed to reflect my dissent but my request was refused by the Mayor and Town Clerk. The minutes of Kilkenny Corporation go back as far as 1656 and I am disappointed that history will duly record the universal acceptance of this scheme. A letter to the Editor from one of my colleagues in the Kilkenny People (week ending 21/11/08), stated that the CAS is supported by 11 of the 12 members of the Borough Council and 25 of 26 members of Kilkenny County Council.

My opposition to this scheme dates back to 1996 when I attended a public meeting organised by the ‘Save the Waterbarrack Committee’ who were concerned with the potential effects of the road on communities on the northern section of the route and the issue of community severance. One of my priorities since becoming an elected member was to have the scheme scrapped and to explore more sustainable options for traffic management in line with emerging policy. It is firmly my contention that the road and bridge crossing have no place in modern urban planning.

I must also state Mr Chairman that I bring to this forum the very real concerns of many citizens of this great city. While much evidence has been rightfully brought forward regarding the heritage and archaeological impacts of the proposed scheme, I feel it my duty as a public representative to articulate the deep dissatisfaction of so many people from diverse backgrounds that so much time, energy and public money has been spent on bringing the proposal to this stage. Some commentators have put out the assertion that this is a battle between road engineers and academics with no link whatsoever to local communities. Well it is not, as most of the objectors here are Kilkenny Citizens, and our arguments are as much about the social, community and environmental implications as they are about strictly archaeological or heritage issues.

The issue of community severance will be (or has been) discussed by St Canices Community Action Group and again I would reiterate that their central argument of the effect on communities of this proposed scheme is very real and will radically affect the quality of life of residents living on the northern side of the proposed city spur. This is a community group from a disadvantaged area of the city who are here with no legal representation and like myself at their own expense, because they care passionately about Kilkenny.

I would not doubt for a minute that everyone represented here in this room today has only the best interest of Kilkenny at heart. We all have the objective of advancing this city, we may have different ideas on how we get there but there is a shared ambition to see Kilkenny grow and prosper. I should also say from the outset that I fully supported the facilitation of the zoning for development of the Kilkenny Mart site and share the view that it is key to the future expansion of the city, giving us critical mass for public transport and other sustainable urban mobility measures as well as enhancing the retail offer and job creation.

It is my contention that the proposed Central Access Scheme is excessive given the relative scale of the traffic problem in Kilkenny and would question weather reduction of traffic is the primary objective of the project. Section 3.2.1 National Spatial Strategy Hubs report of June 2007 states:

‘Provision of the Inner Relief Road is essential. This would unlock development potentials in the centre and enable housing developments and a significant hotel to proceed’. (DoEHLG 2007)

Indeed the Managers report to submissions and observations to the City Centre LAP (July 15th 2005) adds weight to the argument that the road is primarily about accessing a development site and creating a critical mass for car based travel.

In a response to submission No. 11 from the Wolfe Tone St Residents Association which proposed a northern bridge crossing upstream of Greensbridge to offset potential impact on residential amenity, the report states that ‘A bridge crossing up-stream of Greensbridge will not attract the necessary traffic as its location would be more remote from the City Centre’

It is clear to me that this proposal is solely concerned with access to a potential development site, a site that could easily be developed and be viable without the scheme. This was confirmed by the presentation from Kmart here yesterday. Its role as a traffic management measure is flawed to say the least.

Funding for the Scheme

The proposed scheme has the potential to run way over budget given the complexity of the engineering and archaeological issues involved. Given the fact that a significant proportion of the funding for the scheme (€25m) has to be raised from Local Development Contributions, it is not inconceivable that the proposed road and bridge crossing could be delayed for many years given the downturn in construction and the knock on loss of revenue streams to fund both the City spur and the Western Environs Road Improvement Scheme. Projected funding for the scheme in the current year was predicated on an economic growth rate of 4.2% for 2008. This clearly has not materialised.

Many municipalities throughout the US and Canada are now abandoning or postponing some road projects due the increased costs of road surfacing materials. The effect of higher oil prices can be disproportionate. For instance a 5% increase in crude prices in 2005-06 saw the cost of asphalt double and in some cases triple. The vulnerability of oil markets can make project management estimates very difficult to estimate, adding further to costs and inevitably lead to time delays.

It is not inconceivable Mr Chairman that the scheme could be approved and like the Dean St road widening carried out in the 1980’s, may not be completed with all its linkages for decades.

Furthermore, the E.I.S. fails to address adequately the sequencing of the scheme. It is unclear as to the timing of the completion of the Western Environs Road Improvement Scheme and its linking to the City section of the CAS.

Again if these sections are non National Development Plan (NDP) funded roads and are reliant on the Western Environs Development Contribution Scheme, then their timing could be significantly delayed by the downturn in construction. In such a case it could put further pressure on residential areas in Stephen St, Dominic St. for many years as they continue to be the link to the Callan Road and the de facto Inner Relief Road.

Examination of Non Road Alternatives in the EIS

The Environmental Impact Statement fails to adequately explore non road alternatives to the proposed scheme and this in my view is a standard failure by Councils to adequately consider suitable alternatives. While a case is made to have public transport, cycle lanes, pedestrianisation and park and ride facilities as a suite of measures that could be brought in as a result of the approval of this scheme, no strong case is made for these to be pursued as stand alone measures.

A multi modal transportation approach is implied in Article 5, sub section3 of the EIA Directive (85/337/EEC and amended 2003/35/EC). It states: …an outline of the main alternatives studied by the developer and an indication of the main reasons for his choice, taking into account the environmental effects.

In Ireland Councils usually outline only different routes for their proposed road scheme transport “solutions”, rather than looking at alternatives to the schemes themselves. This is a subversion of the intent of the Directive. A supporting document of the Directive, the EU Guidelines on Scoping for EIA is quite explict in how Alternatives are defined. For example, Section B6.2 refers to:

· different strategies e.g. to manage demand or reduce losses rather than develop a new resource

Similarly a scenario linking the Western Environs Scheme and Loughmacask Section of the CAS to a completed Northern Bridge Crossing and Outer Ring Road, should have been explored fully including a comparative cost benefit analysis of both projects in the EIS.

The provision of Park and Ride facilities linked to a four or five shuttle bus service and integrating rural public transport could significantly improve accessibility in the city, particularly for the rural hinterland. The Smithsland site, on the Waterford Road has a provision for the allocation of Park and Ride facilities in its parent planning conditions. Similar initiatives could be used in strategic locations around the City, utilising existing car parking and new facilities, coupled with the provision of public transport infrastructure, shelters, signage and passenger information throughout the City.

Such a scheme could be sub vented from the ring fencing of revenue from on street parking charges. There would be widespread public endorsement for such a proposal as it would offer commuters an efficient, reliable and cost effective alternative to taking the car into the City.

For public transport to work however, we need critical mass. This can be achieved by a joint urban planning framework that would include public transport as a central design element to the interaction of the three strategic sites, namely, Diageo, Padmore and Barnes and the Mart Site.

I do not agree with the assertion in Section 4.5 of the MORSW submission that the modal shift to public transport is not viable. Policies and public awareness will make it viable.

There is a basic misunderstanding that somehow you can provide effective public transport whilst also continuing to build new roads, but it doesn’t work like that, In reality what happens is that new roads like the proposed Inner Relief Road take funds away from public transport projects and undermine the viability of bus services. It is my view that there is significant public demand for public transport. New roads attract more traffic through the phenomenon of ‘induced traffic’, also making cycling and walking less attractive, even if new cycle paths and footpaths are provided.

Generated and Induced Traffic

The failure of the EIS traffic modeling scenario’s to factor into account induced traffic or ‘generated traffic’ is fundamentally flawed. I sometimes refer to Induced Traffic as the ‘Field of Dreams Phenomenon’ i.e.; build it and they will come! The Victoria Transport and Planning Institute (www.wtpi.org) based in Canada has examined in detail the external effects and costs associated with traffic modeling and road construction projects that fail to take into account generated or induced traffic.

Their report ‘Generated Traffic and Induced Travel, Implications for Transport Planning’ states in its overview ‘Traffic congestion tends to maintain equilibrium. Congestion reaches a point at which it constrains further growth in peak period trips. If road capacity increases, the number of peak period trips also increases until congestion again limits further traffic growth. The additional travel is called ‘generated traffic.’ Generated traffic consists of diverted traffic (trips shifted in time, route and destination), and induced vehicle travel, (shifts from other modes, longer trips and new vehicle trips). Research indicates that generated traffic often fills a significant portion of capacity added to congested urban road.

Generated traffic has three implications for transport planning. First, it reduces the congestion benefits of road capacity expansion. Second it increases many external costs. Third, it provides relatively small user benefits because it consists of vehicle travel that consumers are most willing to forego when their costs increase. It is important to factor these accounts into any analysis.’

The report later states: ‘Ignoring these factors distorts planning decisions. Experts conclude: “…the economic value of a scheme can be overestimated by the omission of even a small amount of induced traffic. We consider this matter of profound importance to the value for money assessment of a road programme”

Certainly if all the externalities associated with CAS were factored in such as increased congestion, pollution, and effects on residential amenity, it could greatly skew the cost benefit analysis and value for money evaluation when weighed against non road alternatives or the completion of the outer ring road.

There are many low cost or at least more cost effective solutions available to the Local Authority and many of these elements are already contained in our Development Plans and as ‘ancillary elements’ of the proposed CAS. There are also many outstanding civic projects in the city that would benefit from a freeing up of capital funds to reposition the City as one of the premier tourist and cultural centres in Ireland. Cultural Tourism is by far the most significant potential growth areas in coming years and Kilkenny has a potential to reclaim its arts capital crown. We have been left behind by other towns and cities over recent years with regard to this claim.

I would also ask the question regarding the continuous compromising of the route of the scheme since its conception in 1978. In 2005 elected members were informed that the Wolfe Tone St spur was central to the success of the scheme and that traffic figures without Wolfe Tone St effectively rendered the whole scheme useless. This route was subsequently removed due to protests from residents and concerns over the 18th Century Garrison House. Other sections in the city such as the Irishtown link were also removed and yet the scheme is now still deemed as adequate to meet travel demand.

Policy Context

Both the Local Area Plan for the City and the current City and Environs Development Plan for Kilkenny 2008-14 contain many sound policy objectives that are aimed around a modal shift in transport.

There has been a considerable shift in transportation policy and planning over the intervening years since the Inner Relief Road was first mooted in 1978. A failure to have due regard to such policies and plans marks a failure to future proof the scheme and ignores National and international obligations.

2020 Vision- Sustainable Travel and Transport

Dept of Transport

This public consultation document, published in 2008, is largely reflective of current European and International best practice in transport policy. It also represents a significant shift in the transportation mindset of planners in this country.

Chapter 2 ‘The Vision for Sustainable Transport and Travel’ states that by 2020 there should be; a considerable shift to public transport, cycling and walking, a significant reduction in congestion, a reduction in transport emissions, enhancement of Ireland’s competitiveness and a completely changed public attitude, which ensures that, where feasible, the car becomes the travel mode of last resort.

Chapter 3 puts into context the implementation of Local Area Plans, Development Plans and Regional Planning Guidelines and supports the aspiration of the Kilkenny City and Environs Development Plan 2008-14 to create a ‘compact city’.

It states; “To achieve sustainable urban development, a high density mixed use urban form or ‘compact city’ has been recommended. A ‘compact city’ integrates employment, community services, retail facilities, and public transport. It reduces dependence on private car travel, limits extensive residential zoning and facilitates social cohesion through local facilities and services”.

The programme for Government states that all Local Authority Development Plans should be ‘sustainability proofed’ using Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) criteria, particularly in relation to transportation and land use planning.

The above mentioned document will become transportation policy in coming months and there is a marked failure in the proposed Central Access Scheme EIS to factor into account emerging policy from the Department of Transport. Mr Chairman I find this to be inconceivable that Planners of this scheme were not informed of this marked change in policy direction.

City and Environs Development Plan 2008-14

1.6.5 Aalborg Charter

Originally drafted in Aalborg, Denmark in 1994, there are now over 2,000 signatories in 34 countries to the European Sustainable Towns and Cities Campaign. Kilkenny is one of only four local authorities in Ireland to have ratified the Charter and for the first time has placed it in a statutory context in the City and Environs Development Plan 2008-14.

Aalborg is a ten point charter which commits participants to implement and has a reporting mechanism to the Secretariat. From our point of view, we could use it to formulate a sustainable integrated transport policy that could be replicated in regional towns throughout Ireland.

Adopted by Council Resolution April 2005

Adopted as a Policy Objective of City and Environs Development Plan 2008-14

Unanimously by both Councils, June 2008

Commitment No 6 Better Mobility, Less Traffic

We recognize the interdependence of transport, health and environment and are committed to strongly promoting sustainable mobility choices.

We will therefore work to:

  1. reduce the necessity for private motorized transport and promote attractive alternatives accessible to all.
  2. Increase the share of journeys made by public transport, on foot and by bicycle.
  3. encourage transition to low emissions vehicles
  4. develop and integrated and sustainable urban mobility plan
  5. reduce the impact of transport on the environment and public health.

The proposed Central Access Scheme contradicts this policy objective in many ways and greatly undermines the Local Authorities ability to deliver these objectives.

Kilkenny City and Environs Pedestrian and Cycle Network Study

Arup Consulting Engineers 2001.

This excellent report was commissioned by Kilkenny County Council and Kilkenny Borough Council and contains recommendations for an integrated cycle network in the City and Environs.

In the introduction the report describes Kilkenny as a ‘compact city with most of the suburban areas within 2-3 km from the city centre. Kilkenny City is also relatively flat and suffers from traffic congestion, particularly along the narrow medieval streets within the city centre. For these reasons it is an ideal location for commuting to work/school by bicycle, which is the primary sustainable mode of transport available to residents in Kilkenny.’

Section 2.2 on policy context states; ‘In recent years planning and transportation authorities in Ireland have acknowledged the negative social and environmental aspects of increasing car usage. It is generally accepted without remedial measures the impact of the private car on the quality of life within towns and cities will continue to increase’. It continues, ‘The development of a network of cycle routes by Kilkenny County Council for Kilkenny City will assist in achieving national and international energy pollution targets, and release community benefits for the people of Kilkenny’.

The Councils of Kilkenny City and County have made significant strides in recent years in implementing the plan, with an unprecedented level of funding being allocated in the current year for the Castlecomer Rd, Waterford Rd, and the upgrade of the old sections of the Outer Ring Road. This continued investment over a phased basis would represent a fraction of the capital costs of the CAS and could be implemented central to policy rather than as ancillary measures to the road scheme. A safe routes to schools cycling campaign in Primary and Secondary schools throughout the city along with a waking bus initiative for primary schools are again low cost measures that could deliver significant traffic reductions at peak pressure times.

The full implementation of the objectives Arup 2001 Cycle and Pedestrian Study will go a long way towards offering a real alternative to schools, businesses and citizens in general to car journeys within the city. Kilkenny is a relatively compact City with good linkages already established in the newer suburbs and a tangible rolling out of a cycle lane network, coupled with the possibility of a connected cycle lane on the entire stretch of the River Nore linear park which would link the northern and southern axis and could far exceed the modest predictions for cycling put forward in the EIS.

National Climate Change Strategy 2007-12

Dept of Environment, Heritage and Local Government 2007

Ireland was one of the few EU member states to be given a derogation on emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. Ireland, because of its then low level of economic activity was allowed a 13% increase on 1990 levels. However due to rapid economic expansion in intervening years, actual emissions rose by 24% on agreed targets. The Irish Government has set aside €700m to pay for carbon offsets and fines and our transport sector has been attributed to one of the largest sectoral increases in this time (19% in 2005).

The National Climate Change Strategy envisages a potential annual reduction in transport emissions of 0.51 million tones of CO² by 2010 through the National Spatial Strategy, Transport 21 and Regional Planning Guidelines by better integrating land use planning and spatial development (DoEHLG 2007).

The report states; “An integral part of planning for future public transport provision will require encouraging commuters to move from private car to more sustainable modes of travel.”

Chapter 11 Adaptation to Impacts of Climate Change states that Local Authorities now have the power to consider adaptation initiatives in relation to development plans. The National Adaptation Strategy to be published soon by DoEHLG will provide a framework for these adaptation and mitigation initiatives at a National and Local Level.

Kilkenny Local Authorities are in the process of drafting a County Climate Change Strategy and adaptation and mitigation measures should include a policy commitment to actively reduce traffic entering the City by 30% over an ten year period from present levels by pursuing policies that don’t involve the facilitation of a business as usual scenario. This way we would be meeting our International obligations at a local level, in the true spirit of Local Agenda 21.

New Planning legislation to be brought forward by the Minister for the Environment will also significantly change the status of the above mentioned policies. It is understood that Development Plans will in future have to comply with National, International and Regional Policies and Guidelines where hitherto they only had to have ‘regard to’ such documents and reference them in appendices.

In Conclusion

Over the course of the past few months and indeed years as a public representative I have listened to many people and groups in relation to the Central Access Scheme and I cannot see where public support for this project is coming from. When the question is put to people ‘do you value our city’s heritage over the need to facilitate traffic growth, the answer is a resounding yes.

With the significant increases globally in ethical travel and tourism, Kilkenny could brand itself as a eco tourism destination, using a Green City as put forward by Kilkenny Chamber as the focal point of a county with walking trails, a Failte Ireland funded cycling hub, fishing, crafts and other pursuits. This would be a unique selling point for the City and county.

We are not trying to compete with Carlow or Waterford, what we have is far superior! We have a brand that is the envy of every regional town in Ireland. We don’t need to have the same retail offer or worry about leakage to other retail centres. We simply cannot keep duplicating the mistakes of other towns. What we have is unique and we need to use our resources wisely to consolidate that uniqueness, upgrading our City Streets, developing a municipal arts centre and City Museum, implementing the St Mary’s and City Walls Conservation plans and providing skate parks and playgrounds. We can’t do that if we sink all our resources into this black hole of a project.

Some argument has been made that the road will alleviate pressure on the residents of Stephen St, and Dominic St. There is very little evidence to suggest that it will in the short to medium term and if it does we are just moving the problem onto other communities in the city. Stephen St and Dominic St would experience a significant ease in traffic pressure with a completed Western Environs Scheme linked to the completed outer ring road.

Surely this is not the legacy project we leave behind for future generations of Kilkenny Citizens as we near the 400th anniversary of the granting of City Status?

Surely history has thought us that there is a better way to organise our urban settlement. When the framework of this great City was laid out in pre Norman times, could anyone in those times have foreseen that that basic fabric would still remain virtually intact today? This is a great testament to planning and most notably to the Authorities and heritage interests in Kilkenny.

Organisations like Kilkenny Archaeological Society have done the people of Kilkenny a great service in ensuring that this unique history is being documented to inform planning policy. We have a medieval city with narrow streetscapes, laneways and a stunning array of building stock. We must accept that, work with what we have and show we have the imagination and creativity to address modern demands of a living city while respecting the legacy we have been gifted. The ability to successfully merge the old and new should be seamless and go unnoticed by visitors. Interventions should be minimal and this will ultimately mark us out as a progressive and forward thinking community in years and decades to come.

I would urge An Bord Pleanala to reject this scheme and allow us to go back to the drawing board to frame a new plan that is visionary and representative of all the people of Kilkenny.

Thank You Mr Chairman, for allowing me to make this statement.