A protest will take place today as Clare County Council closes a ‘lifeline’ bridge for repair works leaving a village at risk of having its business destroyed.
The bridge at Latoon, which is ‘structurally compromised’ and requires to be completely replaced, is located on the old N18 Limerick to Ennis road near Dromoland.
Locals and businesses say the life will be choked out of Clarecastle village if the planned closure goes today especially so close to Christmas.
While Clare County Council has acknowledged the difficulties the closure will pose to the local community, a spokesman said a full closure is unavoidable because of the extent of the works required.
The route is a vital artery and access point to Clarecastle and its closure will cause untold hardship to local businesses.
Business owners in the village want to see todays planned closure of the road postponed until after Christmas and to be concluded within three months rather than the six proposed by Clare County Council.
Locals, who have held previous protests at the same bridge when large trucks flouted a weight ban, claim that the local authority did not hold adequate consultation on the closure.
Earlier this year, investigative works began on the bridge which the council now says it has no choice but to close.
Clare County Council has said the bridge will have to have to be demolished and reconstructed.
According to council’s consulting engineers, the works will take approximately 6 months to complete however with favourable conditions, works may be completed ahead of schedule.
Local councillor Paul Murphy has said the council has little choice in the matter.
“This has been going on for about two years. They had engineers in looking at the bridge and looked at whether the bridge could have been repaired but that wasn’t feasible. The fear was that any repairs wouldn’t have been long-term and they would end up going back to the drawing board again in a few years,” Cllr Murphy said.
Clare County Council has said: “The old Latoon Bridge will not be accessible during the proposed work period due to its location within the Latoon Creek Bridge construction site. Whilst Clare County Council regrets the proposed works will inconvenience commuters, the current structural condition of this post-tensioned bridge dictates that these significant works be undertaken to ensure a full level of service on the R458 in the future.”
Clarecastle businessman Emelyn Heaps says the closure will devastate businesses in the village.
“If this closure proceeds, the council will be doing it at the worst possible time without having considered all the options. Regardless of what works are required on the bridge, there is an engineering solution available but the council insists there isn’t one so, they are either asking the wrong engineers and contractors or they are constrained by budget,” Mr Heaps said.
Businessman PJ Keogh warned last week that a protest would take place if the council hadn’t reconsidered the closure plan by Friday last.
“Business people have no option now but to protest at the bridge however they get there, by foot or bicycle or whatever it takes to stop this proposed closure,” Mr Keogh said.