A WAR of words has broken out between road bosses and the construction industry over claims that the National Roads Authority (NRA) was wasting taxpayers' money by objecting to new developments.
The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) yesterday said the fact the NRA had a full-time planning officer charged with lodging objections was "extremely wasteful and costly" and should be stopped.
The comments were made in a pre-Budget submission where the CIF said it was "absurd" that the NRA had a unit engaged in "fighting" with local authorities at a time when the construction industry had collapsed and jobs were needed.
"Particularly during a period of one of the worst economic downturns in history, it is absolutely absurd that one arm of the State at national level should have a unit within it engaged full-time in-fighting with other local arms of the State throughout the country," the CIF submission said.
But the NRA hit back, saying that the construction industry was responsible for wasting taxpayers' money during the boom.
"If one industry knows the consequences of inappropriate developments and irrational thinking when it comes to protecting public investment in infrastructure it's construction," a spokesman said.
"If they want to continue with this, more money will be wasted. It's important that the NRA protects public investment. We should not repeat past sins."
The NRA has an official policy to control development near national roads so that safety is not compromised by large volumes of cars entering the network at inappropriate locations.
Last June planning permission for a supermarket at Ardee in Co Louth was refused permission because it was close to the N33 which was described as a "key link road" between the M1, N2 and N52.
"The appeal site is close to this road and so there is a serious concern that traffic movements generated by the proposed development would lead to the overloading of the same, thereby compromising the performance of the strategically important national road network," the NRA said.
A 30-unit housing development was also refused permission in Donegal town after the NRA said it would join a national road where the maximum speed limit applied.
Last July, An Bord Pleanala refused permission to Kilsaran Concrete to build a showroom at Screggan in Co Offaly following objections from the NRA.
The CIF said a working group made up of senior executives in city and county councils, the NRA and the Department of the Environment should be established so potential problems could be addressed before a formal planning application was lodged.
This would save time and costs and avoid unnecessary delays to projects, it said.