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Road project could destroy 3,000ac & put 100 small farmers out of business

The N17 Knock to Collooney road project could severely impact about 3,000-acres of farmland and put as many as 100 small farmers out of business.

So says John Gallagher, who farms halfway between Tubbercurry and Curry in County Sligo.

He based his estimates on the costing of the recently opened stretch of the N4 between Collooney and Castlebaldwin. It took out in the region of 500-acres of farmland.

N17 Knock to Collooney road project 

He told That’s Farming:

“This new road consists of about 14km of dual carriageway and 1km of conventional road and cost €140 million to complete. It worked out to about €10 million per kilometre.”

“Projecting that for what is contemplated for the new N17, which is pencilled in at roughly 58km, and based on the equation of the Collooney to Castlebaldwin road, the project will cost just under €600m in today’s money terms.”

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Furthermore, Gallagher says the construction of the road is not projected to go ahead for another ten years. He said this means that the entire project could cost over €1 billion and even as much as €1.5 billion.

The N17 Knock to Collooney Project is currently at phase 2 (options selection) of the TII Project Management Guidelines.

The refined feasible options (the shortlist of road options) were announced in August this year, which, in effect, brought down the initial feasible options (or the long list of road options) to 5.

Decision on road by year-end

The preferred option for the proposed road is set to be decided by the end of the year.

Gallagher says he owns two pieces of farmland that are impacted by the short-listed options and that he could lose up to 7-acres.

Michael O’Dowd farms on 70-acres a few kilometres north of Tubbercurry and is vice-chairman of Sligo Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA).

He agrees with Gallagher on the farmland that potentially may be lost and the adverse impact on small farmers if the proposed new road project goes ahead.

He notes that two of the short-listed options go through his farmland. If either is chosen, it would not be viable for him to continue farming.

The N17 Knock to Collooney road project could impact about 3,000-acres of farmland and put as many as 100 small farmers out of business.

Both believe that part of the current N17, especially the section between Curry to Ballinacarrow, needs “serious upgrading”. However, they believe building a completely new road from Knock to Collooney is “unnecessary”.

“Most of the road from Knock to Collooney is wide enough for any traffic on it now and into the future. It is the area, particularly from Curry to Ballinacarrow, that is really bad. It is only 6m wide and carries 10,000 – 15,000 units of traffic some days,” says O’Dowd.

Rail line will reduce freight on the roads

They both also contend that the existing, unused rail line must be brought back to life.

“There is an existing railway line that has been abandoned; it was never actually closed down. I think it needs to be part of the future to help reduce the considerable amount of freight on roads. Re-open the railway lines for passenger, freight, and tourism. It’s a win-win situation”, says O’Dowd.

They also believe that the recent COP26 climate discussions in Glasgow, and the subsequent commitments the Irish government has made on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, place further doubt on continuing with the new road project.

“If they [the government] made commitments in Glasgow on climate change, in reducing carbon emissions, and come home and say we are building new roads; that seems to be a contradiction. I put it all down to a bridge too many and a road too far,” says Gallagher.

Article: Dirk De Vynck.

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