SLIGO COULD lose €100 million in Government funding if the deadlock over a planned bridge continues, a trade union leader warned yesterday.
Community leaders have also warned that the multimillion euro Cranmore Regeneration project is now at risk in an area which has endured decades of poverty and neglect.
The project which got the green light in 2007 has seen 65 boarded-up houses in the sprawling local authority estate demolished. But it is now stalled following a decision by councillors to delete plans for the Eastern link bridge from the Sligo and Environs Development Plan.
Councillors have repeatedly insisted that the Cranmore project was a stand alone one but on a visit to Sligo last November Minister for Housing Michael Finneran insisted that it was inextricably linked to the bridge. He urged the councillors to draw up a master plan for the area following a “period of reflection”.
Mr Finneran estimated that the amount of State funding at risk was up to €100 million given the cost of providing the bridge, the access routes and refurbishing the 500-house Cranmore estate.
Hugh McConville chairman of the Sligo Council of Trade Unions yesterday warned that there was now “a real danger” that Sligo would lose massive public investment at a time when 100 local retail units are closed and unemployment has soared.
Acknowledging the “genuine difficulties” involved for those meeting the needs of all Sligo residents, he said it was vital at this stage that decisions be made to ensure that Sligo does not lose out. “We are very worried from a jobs perspective”, he said.
Councillors opposed the bridge, which got the go ahead from An Bord Pleanála, because of concerns about its impact on a long established residential neighbourhood in the Doorly Park area of Sligo. Residents say their community will be split in two, that several houses will be demolished on foot of compulsory purchase orders and that 20,000 cars will pass by their doors every day in what is now a very tranquil neighbourhood.
Councillors had urged officials to find an alternative location for the bridge but the National Parks and Wildlife Service this week told them the entire area was protected by a habitats directive.
Michelle McMorrow, chairwoman of the Cranmore Community Co-operative has pleaded with councillors to reinstate the Eastern link bridge, saying that it would provide much needed employment as well as critical access to Sligo General Hospital and IT Sligo.
She said the community had a vision and wanted to reverse the legacy of poverty and neglect.
Three people have been murdered in Cranmore in recent years but Ms McMorrow said the community had fought back and had recently won a National Pride of Place award.
“I grew up here at a time when if you were applying for jobs you could not give Cranmore as your address,” she said.
“A lot of work had been done here getting the community involved and we do not want it to slip away now. Sligo is crying out for this investment. Any town in Ireland would.”