After many setbacks and numerous fatalities in traffic accidents over the years, the long struggle for a bypass of the village of Slane may well be coming to a fruitful conclusion.
Plans which went on public display in the village last Thursday include provision of a bypass and a ban on HGV traffic going through the village and the provision of infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists.
Slane is situated right in the heart of the Boyne Valley but it has been prevented from reaching its true potential due to the huge volumes of traffic travelling through the village daily.
Located adjacent to the River Boyne, Slane is in close proximity to an area of outstanding natural beauty and a gateway to the World Heritage Site, Brú na Bóinne.
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Councillors and campaigners have long pointed out that the lack of a bypass is stunting the growth of the area and limiting its potential for future development of tourism and other local business activity
As the plan points out, “Slane sits amongst a wealth of natural and built assets. Located adjacent to the River Boyne, the village is in close proximity to an area of outstanding natural beauty and a gateway to the World Heritage Site, Brú na Bóinne.
The village also sees visitors to annual concerts at Slane Castle and the Slane Distillery. These attractions can greatly increase a sense of place for locals and visitors. Currently there are poor links between these elements.
One of the main aspirations of the plan is to link these sites as well as local community / commercial sites via recreational and direct links at strategic points throughout the village.
Particular focus should be given to connections to the future Boyne Greenway scheme. Though further consideration from landowners in this area will be required, the potential to having linking spaces along the river and the benefits of such interventions should not be underestimated.”
Cognisant perhaps of the failure of previous efforts to get a bypass for Slane through the planning process, local Councillors gave the plan a guarded welcome.
Councillor Wayne Harding said that he was glad to see the bypass inching closer to a new application to An Bord Pleanala.
“After losing a decade since the last application where An Board Pleanala went against their own inspectors recommendation and refused the bypass, Meath County Council are going back with a bypass and public realm plan that has absolutely enormous potential for the historic village” he said.
“The plan, put simply, would replace the HGV laden N2 with a cycle and pedestrian link to the Boyne Greenway. The tourism potential of this for the whole of the Boyne Valley is staggering.”
Councillor Sharon Tolan said that this is a very exciting time for Slane and for Meath County Council.
“A decade after the last application for a bypass was refused by An Bord Pleanala, we are so close to finalising a new application” she said.
The beauty of this application is that it includes a complete Public Realm Plan for Slane, which would see the village totally transformed into the welcoming, safe and enjoyable space for pedestrians and cyclists that it deserves to be.
“The HGV ban will be a game changer for the village, and I was pleased to hear the planners confirm to me that there should be no inconvenience caused to local businesses. We are confident that every i has been dotted, every t crossed, every option conceivable has been looked into and every report completed to the highest standard.
However, Cllr Tolan said that she was disappointed that the planners did not take this opportunity to provide segregated cycling lanes in the plans, and went for the shared pedestrian and cycling facilities instead.
“The numbers of people walking and cycling has completely exploded since Covid and I will be asking An Bord Pleanala to condition the council to CPO sufficient land for separate cycle lanes and footpaths which will run along the west side of the Bypass.
“There is already a proposed 2.5m verge so it shouldn't require much more to provide the best facilities possible.
“Of course, we will soon be at the mercy of An Bord Pleanala, which is like going into the Twilight Zone at the moment.
"I will be putting pressure on the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O'Brien, to ensure that the issues with ABP are dealt with as a matter of urgency so that they are fully resourced to deal with all applications in a timely manner."