No in-roads being made on private lane repairs

Cavan county councillors have hit out at the failure to invest in repairs to private lanes with roads approved as far back as 2009 only being fixed now under the Local Improvement Scheme (LIS).

The issue was debated at a council meeting last week just days before almost €290,000 was allocated to the county under the scheme.

The council’s Director of Services, Paddy Connaughton, told councillors at their May monthly meeting online, that it could take close to €12 million to fix all of the 222 rural laneways awaiting repair across the county and not normally maintained by the local authority.

Last Friday’s funding was announced by the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys as part of a €10.5M nationwide investment under the Local Improvement Scheme (see page 22 of this week's newspaper for more).

It was the shared opinion of some within the council that the allocation of such funds should not be the sole remit of one single department, and instead shared by the Department of Rural and Community Development, Agriculture and Transport.

The matter came up for discussion following a motion tabled by Fine Gael’s Peter McVitty who sought to address directly what he described as the “inadequacy” of funding provided to the scheme.

He said what was allocated in the past was simply “not enough”.

Cavan received an LIS allocation of close to €637,000 in 2018, but for 2020 this figure dropped to just over €269,000.

Cllr McVitty proposed writing to both the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and also the Transport Minister, Eamon Ryan, seeking to bolster the sum of money distributed nationally.

“It’s getting to be a serious issue at the minute.”

Cllr McVitty’s motion was seconded by party colleague Winston Bennett, who remarked that elected members were hearing about the plight of rural lane dwellers right from the doorstep.

He said he and a neighbour each paid €10,500 towards getting the lane he lives on fixed, but that people were now getting “fed up” waiting.

A cap on individual contributions has since been introduced.

TP O’Reilly agreed that other departments should have a “role to play”, and the motion was also supported by Independent Brendan Fay.

Fianna Fáil’s Sean Smith considered that the “ball rests” firmly with Minister Ryan’s Department for Transport. He told the meeting that many of the businesses that reside down such laneways affected provide the “backbone” to local economies. He fumed that LIS has been “abandoned” for much of the past decade, and remembered a time when around 60 laneways would be fixed in a year. Now the figure was anywhere between four and six. “The decline has been massive. I don’t know how that is going to be arrested.”

Clifford Kelly (FF) said there was “terrible pressure” on local representatives over the LIS, and Carmel Brady (FG), who first proposed contacting the Department of Agriculture around two years ago, said she felt it “should still happen”. Her party colleague Madeleine Argue said the situation regarding the backlog has become a “joke at this stage”.

John Paul Feeley (FF) meanwhile felt that funding for LIS should be taken from departments where there had been an “underspend” the previous year. He felt that asking other departments to support LIS might end up a “wild goose chase”.

There was support too for the motion from Val Smith (FG), Patricia Walsh (FF), and Aiden Fitzpatrick (FF).

Responding, Director of Services Paddy Connaughton said that last year’s allocation only facilitated fixing four roads. “We are not making any significant in-roads,” Mr Connaughton said of the waiting list.

“Significant funding is needed.”

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