The An Bord Pleanála inspector recommended that cars should not be allowed to use the new Central Access Scheme bridge until a ring road extension between the Freshford Road and Castlecomer Road is completed.
This “modification” is included in the original inspector’s report: “The River Nore Bridge shall not be opened to traffic, other than pedestrian, cyclist, bus or emergency vehicle traffic prior to the completion of the portion of the Kilkenny Ring Road joining the Castlecomer Road (N77 ) and the Freshford Road (R693).”
The condition is not a condition of the board’s final decision, however.
With the ring road extension not expected to be completed until 2022, “it would clearly therefore not be practical to delay the opening of the new bridge until that time,” the inspector wrote in the updated report. “Therefore it is strongly recommended that further traffic management proposals be developed with the objective of limiting and reducing the level of traffic.”
The reason for suggesting this change, the inspector explained, was to prevent congestion in the St Canice’s Architectural Conservation Area.
“There is a pressing need for a replacement bridge for Green’s Bridge which will take over the functions of conveying traffic from east to west for which the current bridge is most unsuitable. Green’s Bridge is over 230 years old and requires to be subject to significantly reduced traffic,” the inspector wrote.
“There is also a need to develop public transport to serve the city centre and this cannot be done with the existing bridge infrastructure. A modern bridge with facility for walking and cycling as well as buses is required and the proposed bridge fills this requirement.”
However, the inspector added: “There is a concern as to the level of traffic which would be attracted to the new bridge as predicted by the EIS (environmental impact statement). The major generator of that traffic would arise from the development of the western suburbs generally.
“By not connecting the proposed bridge directly to the proposed suburbs until the ring road is completed, it is considered that some traffic impacts can be avoided. ...
“This recommendation arises because a new bridge in the city would tend to attract traffic from the Freshford direction which currently uses the Threecastles bridge and also that the ring road would take traffic away from the city centre and thus reduce traffic impacts in the Dean Street area.
“In effect then the recommendation is that the Scheme as proposed be limited to a crossing of the river Nore with connections at either side to a road network which is wide enough to take bus traffic. The recommendation is that the solution to traffic problems arising from the development of up to 5,000 dwelling units on the west of the city be resolved by way of the construction of the complete ring road. While not part of this assessment, it would appear that the improvement in public transport provision has a large part to play in reducing traffic impacts from new developments.
“When examining the recommended revised nature of the Central Access Scheme it is considered that while direct impacts in the St Canice’s Architectural Conservation Area are unavoidable, with mitigation which would include lower traffic levels, these impacts would not be significant.”