*Photograph: Joe Buckley

A SOUTH CLARE representative has warned that the closure of the entrance to Cluainin Apartments in Shannon “could end up causing a death”.

An impassioned plea was made by Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF) for planners in Clare County Council to reverse the decision which he felt was posing a major health and safety risk in Tullyvarraga which is home to “a lot of residential care facilities” requiring emergency services “on a more regular basis. When there is an emergency and the Eircode is given out the ambulance is not directed to the house but to the entrance that has been closed off by Clare County Council”. He was adamant that either the entrance be reopened or for maps to be updated.

Planning permission was granted for the Cluainin housing development to use a temporary access onto Cronan Lawn and Cronan Grove “until such time as the remainder of the site was completed,” senior executive planner, Gareth Ruane outlined. He explained that the original application “clearly shows” the permanent access route through the adjacent site. The temporary access point was used for fourteen years according to Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF).

Ruane acknowledged, “there was a delay in developing the adjoining site and during this period, the temporary access remained in use” which prompted objections from Cronan residents. The completion of the adjoining site in January 2020 left the Council with an obligation “to ensure that the planning conditions for Cluainin development were complied with”. He said COVID-19 delayed matters with the closure of the temporary entrance and link to the new permanent exit completed in March 2022.

Clare County Council are finalising the taking in charge of the housing development with a recommendation to be brought before councillors this year, the senior planner stated. A review and update of the signage will be carried out, he confirmed.

Speaking at a meeting of the Shannon Municipal District, Cllr O’Gorman declared, “the closure of this road could end up causing a death”. He recalled that on April 26th, an ambulance was called to the long-term residential facility but was directed to the closed entrance resulting in a ten minute delay in accessing the property, “thankfully it didn’t end up in a fatality” but added, “ten minutes could be the difference between life and death”

Another issue highlighted by the Cratloe councillor was the high proportion of children playing on the street that ambulance drivers have to negotiate past. “If you drive in from 2 to 6pm any day, there could be forty to sixty children playing hurling or soccer, the nature of ambulance drivers is to get there at speed and it is a novelty for children that see them”.

An alternative entrance in the corner “would be better,” Cllr McGettigan commented when seconding the proposal, “it would be safer for both housing estates and the emergency services would get in quicker”.

Several meetings have been held with residents, planning officials and councillors “to no avail”, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) reflected. “It’s a catch 22 situation, you have a serious problem that we’ve brought up before but residents on the other side who want it closed, they are adamant on it. You’re between the devil and the deep blue sea trying to keep them all happy”.

“I’m not between the devil and deep blue sea, this is a statutory process,” Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) responded. He said the public were entitled to make submissions, which he did. “I have no problems supporting the planning department. I have copies of both the planning permissions which went through scrutiny, they had conditions on it”.

Public consultation between the different estates is worth pursuing, Cllr McGettigan maintained. “Of course Cllr Flynn is perfectly right but just because a decision was made doesn’t mean it is the right one. It can also be changed,” Cllr Ryan replied and said the roads department were “within their rights” to seek another entrance. O’Gorman added, “I want to make sure that nobody will ever lose a life because we closed a road, it was left open too long and people got used to it, it was supposed to be temporary but how long was it there.

Shannon’s last estate “was to be a private estate but it became social housing, that brought a lot of angst on people,” Cllr Flynn noted and he pointed out that the Director of Service “has remained quiet” prompting Liam Conneally to state, “I tend to respond when I’m asked a question. If an application is made to a planning authority, a decision is made based on the application made”.

Clarity was sought by Cllr McGettigan as to whether the residents must make the request to which Cllr Ryan said it was the responsibility of the roads department. Senior engineer, Tom Mellett said the “starting point” was to talk to the planning department.

Conditions associated with planning decisions are “sacrosanct,” Cllr Flynn remarked, “embrace what we have or make it up as we go along”. Conneally stressed that the “integrity of the planning process has to be maintained. There is an opportunity to review this in terms of what is best for the community but it has to follow due process”.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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