And so it wasn’t a bad dream …
Michael Noonan announced funding last week for this white elephant project. Details are fairly scant at the moment, but it seems that the bridge will run from Arthur’s Quay Park over to the weir and then towards Merchant’s Quay. Through various articles I’ve read in the last week, it seems that €3 million will be spent almost immediately, so that probably means they are going for detailed design before applying for planning. That’s a lot of money for local consultants. According to Noonan another €3 million will be spent in 2016, and if an article in The Sunday Business Post is accurate the total spend could be in the region of €16 million.
That so much public money could be thrown at a completely unnecessary infrastructural project is indeed a scandal and I hope that local politicians and media will see it as such. This will be of marginal benefit to the city – and that’s being extremely kind to it. Seemingly, it has been dreamed up by a city official rather than recommended by any expert group. Nor is it contained in any City Council plan. That this project should be given up to €16 million ahead of long-awaited, much needed projects which would be of vastly greater benefit to the city is really something that we should be up in arms over.
Limerick City Council is trying to pretend that it is part of Limerick 2030, but it’s clearly not. I wrote the following beneath an article which dealt with this and the demolition of Sarsfield House that appeared in The Limerick Chronicle during the week.
“The ‘footbridge’ was never part of the Limerick 2030 plan, so let’s not pretend that it was. Limerick 2030 was a well researched document put together by experts which set out an ambitious vision for Limerick City. In contrast, the footbridge was dreamt up by city officials and there is no case to be made for it. If anything, the developments proposed under Limerick 2030 completely negate any argument for this footbridge as the demolition of Sarsfield House and the remodelling of Arthur’s Quay will create a linear park along the bank of the Shannon River, and a clear route towards Nicholas Street, King John’s Castle and the medieval part of Limerick City.
The footbridge has not been looked for by anybody in Limerick, it is not included in any plan by Limerick City & County Council, and it is not endorsed by any experts. It would be a travesty if we allow major, multi-million euro (€16 million according to The Sunday Business Post) infrastructural projects that have very marginal benefit, and which more than likely will do significant damage to the city, to proceed on the basis of solo runs by city officials who are not qualified to make these decisions and are answerable to nobody except the city manager.”
The Sunday Business Post article (19th October 2014) has the most detail on the proposal, but the utterances coming from city hall (presumably from Pat Daly, Economic Development and Planning director) and Fáilte Ireland are disingenuous, deceitful and patronising.
Noonan grants €6m for bridge on his own turf
One of Minister for Finance Michael Noonan’s budget surprises was a €6 million grant for a pedestrian bridge for his native Limerick City.
It will stretch over the Shannon for 100 metres, allowing people to walk from Arthur’s Quay to King John’s Castle in the medieval quarter to the city’s commercial core at Arthur’s Quay.
Although the footbridge was not included in Noonan’s budget speech or in the main budget documentation, he made sure to announce it to his local newspaper, the Limerick Leader, afterwards.
The project is backed by Fáilte Ireland, which sees it as a way of increasing the attractiveness of Limerick City to tourists. A Fáilte Ireland spokesman said it would have a “wow factor” and would link up several tourist attractions within walking distance. It is intended to be a way of promoting the city to tourists flying into Shannon Airport to drive on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Limerick Council also pushed the case for the footbridge on the grounds of social regeneration. It will provide a further connection to the St. Mary’s Park estate in King’s Island, which is one of the poorest parts of the city.
According to a business case drawn up by the council, the footbridge will cost between €7.5 million and €16 million, so private donations will be required. However, the council has pledged to make up any shortfall.
A council spokeswoman said it hoped to go to tender by the end of the year for the design process for the footbridge.
It seems that a lot of money will be thrown at this before we get a chance to make our voices known at the planning stage. No doubt Limerick City & County Council will grant permission to itself (under Part 8 of the Planning & Development Act) so it will be necessary to make an appeal to An Bord Pleanála, but unfortunately a lot of money will have been thrown down the drain before then.
This photo was released by Laura Ryan of Limerick City & County Council on Twitter on Tuesday 21st October.