A MAJOR battle is looming over plans to build a crucial section of Cork’s proposed northern ring road across the Lee Valley.
A new group has been set up to fight any attempts to build the highway’s key western section — to link it to the city’s southern ring road — across the valley at Carrigrohane on the outskirts of the city.
The Protect the Lee Valley campaigners said it will become an issue for election candidates.
The long-awaited northern ring road will be the most expensive road ever built in the county.
The €500 million highway will be built in two phases: a northern section to bypass the city linking to the Glanmire/Watergrasshill road, and the controversial western section linking it to the Ballincollig bypass.
Engineers selected the route of the northern phase last July. It will run from the N20 Mallow Road, northwest of Killeens Cross before crossing the railway line at Monard.
It will then follow a relatively straight line in a north-easterly direction through the townlands of Kileendaniel, Ballincrokig and Ballynoe.
Using a viaduct structure, it will cross through the Upper Glanmire Valley before skirting to the north and west of Sarsfield Court to connect to the Glanmire/Watergrasshill road scheme at Killydonoghue.
But they are still assessing at least two proposed routes for the western section.
Both of these routes — the red and green routes — would cut across the Lee Valley at Carrigrohane.
One would involve the construction of a bridge and the other would involve the construction of a massive tunnel.
But members of the Protect the Lee Valley campaign said they will mount a fierce battle against both routes, which they say would destroy one of the country’s most beautiful river valleys.
Spokesman Patrick Hayes said they have launched an online petition at www.protecttheleevalley.com to gather signatures.
He also criticised the National Roads Authority (NRA) for what he said was poor public consultation on the issue.
“Very few people knew about these plans until it was almost too late,” he said. “This is not a ‘not in my backyard’ campaign. We are against anything that would destroy the wonderful amenity that is the Lee Valley and the Lee Fields.
“There are other options available. But it’s up to the engineers in the NRA to come up with something suitable.”
Funding for the entire project is unlikely before 2010 because the NRA has already decided on its national programme up to that date.