Press Release from Tipperary County Council
Ardfinnan Bridge Rehabilitation Project
31st August 2017
A meeting was held on the 28th August 2017 in the Civic Offices Clonmel to discuss preliminary design options and associated environmental assessments undertaken by Tipperary County Council for the Ardfinnan bridge rehabilitation project. The meeting was attended by the elected members of Clonmel Borough District Council, the Oireachtas members, the Chief Executive of Tipperary County Council and senior officials of the Roads Section.
The Ardfinnan Bridge is located in the Lower River Suir Special Area of Conservation, is on the Record of Monuments and Places and is recorded on the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. It is within a zone of archaeological potential and is a protected structure in the County Development Plan.
At a previous meeting held in April, Tipperary County Council officials reported that following the completion of ecological and aquatic surveys, a protected species had been found in the river adjacent to the bridge. It was explained that due to the nature and scale of the proposed bridge rehabilitation works this would have significant impacts on the delivery of the remedial works proposed for Ardfinnan Bridge as it was now necessary under the Planning & Development Act to apply to An Bord Pleanála for approval to carry out the proposed rehabilitation works to the bridge structure.
This €800,000 project that has already received funding approval also includes the provision of a new pedestrian walkway and traffic calming measures, as set out in the County Development Plan. These measures are aimed at improving pedestrian safety across the bridge and in the vicinity of the school and other public amenities and businesses in Ardfinnan.
The public representatives expressed the concerns of members of the local community in Ardfinnan regarding the provision of a walkway on the bridge and consequent permanent one-way traffic arrangement on the bridge. The Council was asked and agreed to examine other pedestrian walkway options, and discuss the impacts with the National Monuments Service and to ascertain whether additional monies could be provided by the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport to fund these options.
Tipperary County Council with input from Ardfinnan Community Council subsequently prepared preliminary designs for three options and held a formal pre-planning consultation meeting including a site visit with the National Monuments Service to obtain their opinion in relation to the proposals.
The design options assessed and consulted upon were:
Option 1 - a footpath on the bridge with a one-way sensor-controlled traffic light system
Option 2 - a cantilever walkway attached to the outside of the bridge (suspended over the river) and
Option 3 - a standalone/independent structure set away from the existing bridge
The view provided to Tipperary County Council by the National Monuments Service is that option 1 - the provision of a footpath on the existing bridge poses the least impact in terms of archaeological, nature conservation, and built heritage and involves minimal structural interference with the fabric of the historic structure formed by the bridge. This option would also appear to have minimal potential for adverse visual impact on either the bridge itself, its setting or on Ardfinnan Castle. The National Monuments Service commented that option 2 would involve major structural work to the existing bridge, likely to compromise its integrity as a historic structure and that this and option 3 are likely to have a negative impact on the visual amenity of both the existing bridge and the setting of Ardfinnan Castle, as well as having possible underwater archaeological impacts.
Bridge specialists were engaged by the Council following a public procurement process and they provided cost estimations for the provision of each option based on the site specific requirements in Ardfinnan and comparisons with similar bridge projects. Option 1 was found to be the most cost effective option at between €80,000 and €100,000. Option 2 was costed at between €1 million and €1.2 million. Option 3 was costed at between €1.2million and €1.5 million.
The elected members of Clonmel Borough District Council and the Oireachtas members were informed at the meeting that the Council had submitted a funding application to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport to ascertain whether additional monies could be provided for options 2 and 3.
It was reported that a formal reply was received on the 23rd August 2017 stating that “Given the many competing demands for available resources and the continuing shortfall relative to sustainable “steady state” expenditure, the Department is not in a position to increase the allocation.” Following the outcome of the preplanning consultation with the National Monuments Service and the unavailability of additional funding for the alternative options the executive of the Council has taken a decision that an application should be submitted to An Bord Pleanála to carry out bridge rehabilitation works and to provide a footway on the road surface of the existing bridge with a one-way sensor controlled traffic light system.
It was explained that the proposed 1.8m wide footway would be delineated using a different coloured road surface and appropriate road markings and visual aids; and not in the form of a raised concrete kerbed footpath that had been initially proposed. The carriageway will be altered to 4 metres to accommodate all vehicle types including agricultural and contractor traffic whilst also acting as a traffic calming/speed reduction measure. It was also explained that the proposed automatic traffic lights would be ‘vehicle actuated’ signals and have the capability to respond to the presence of vehicles at the lights and therefore reduce the waiting time considerably from the current temporary lights that are in place.
This option will improve pedestrian and motorist safety in Ardfinnan while also being the most favourable solution from an architectural, archaeological and ecological perspective. The Council considers this option the most robust proposal given the available resources and has the best chance of obtaining approval from An Bord Pleanála and allow the Council to proceed with repairing the damaged bridge and improving pedestrian safety across the bridge.
It is expected that an application will be lodged by the Council in September and interested parties will have the opportunity to make submissions and observations to An Bord Pleanála.
Tipperary County Council
Clonmel Borough District
Telephone No. – 0761 06 5000