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27 Sept 2022

No plan, no starting date, and not enough money, this is a bridge too far - councillor

Residents and farmers in rural Glenfin are cut off from their natural hinterlands by a closed bridge

No plan, no starting date, and not enough money, this is a bridge too far - councillor

Cllr Patrick McGowan examines the damage bridge in rural Glenfin. The orange spot is the temporary cover for the hole that closed the bridge initially

An integral part of the local road network in the hills above Glenfin has been cut off to farmers and locals because of a damaged bridge. Now locals are demanding action and have even called on the Green Party leader Eamon Ryan to visit the area to see how their lives have been disrupted as a result.

The Ardbatt bridge across the river Elatagh in Glenfin has provided vital access to farms and homesteads in the adjoining neighbourhood since it was first constructed around 1927. November 2021 saw its closure when a hole developed on its floor making it unsafe for cars, tractors, and other heavy vehicles.

Now 10 months later it remains out of use to the tremendous inconvenience and annoyance of the local residents and other road users. On the Letterbrick-Ardbatt side of the bridge, there are 17 landholdings, all of which are actively farmed at present. Of these 10 are farmed by owners living elsewhere, necessitating travel to and from their farms. One can appreciate the inconvenience caused to these farmers by the closure of the bridge.

An added difficulty for a number of farmers is the fact that their holdings extend from Letterbrick and Ardbatt across the river Elatagh to the Ardlaghan Road and beyond. Without access to the bridge a round trip of approximately 14km extra is needed to move animals from one part of the farm to the other; extra and unnecessary fuel consumption when all road users are asked to reduce emissions.

For the six households resident along the Letterbrick-Ardbatt Road, the closure of the bridge prohibits easy and shorter access to Letterkenny. Like their farmer colleagues, they now journey on to the Ballybofey-Glenties Road, drive east and then turn back on to the Ardlaghan Road as they travel to work or shop in Letterkenny and beyond.

One local said they would happily welcome a visit from transport and environment minister, Eamon Ryan to see for himself the inconvenience caused by this bridge closure and the extra fuel costs incurred by residents undertaking unnecessary longer journeys on the daily commute to work and elsewhere.

The Letterbrick-Ardbatt Road is also used by many walkers as it is part of Slí na Finne. A number of residents have commented on how busy and unsafe this route has become due to the significant increase in jeep and trailer traffic. Of the six households living along this road, there are young children in four of them. The road is but a single carriageway and with the bridge closed increased vehicular traffic discourages walking with small children and dogs.

Residents and other regular users of the Ardbatt bridge are appealing to the council to address this issue with a sense of urgency. If a major reconstruction is not financially possible right now locals require temporary remedial works to render the bridge safe for use again in the very near future.

Cathaoirleach of the Lifford-Stranorlar Municipal District and local councillor Patrick McGowan said he can understand the frustration experienced by the community affected.

“I was contacted about a year ago about this problem. Donegal County Council reacted by putting up barriers on either side of the bridge but obviously, there are quite a few houses here that need this road to go to work, school, and shopping. It is costing them time and diesel every day but I can get no definite answer or plan as to what is going to happen on this bridge. We pushed for funding but I have been told we only received half the money needed to do the job."

He said this is a case of a bridge too far as far as the community is concerned.

“Nobody pushes harder than me for new projects but where there's a bridge on an existing road it should be a priority and I don't care where it is in the county. This is taking too long, the community is waiting nearly a year and that's too long, this is not acceptable.

“I've no doubt the Lough's Agency is also looking at this bridge with a view to protecting the safe passage for salmon stocks and guarding against pollution as this river feeds the Finn. The local sheep farmers are maintaining the land very well and farming in an environmental way to safeguard against things like gorse fires. The locals are paying their taxes and don't deserve to have an important road like those closed for almost a year.”

Cllr McGowan added everyone had safety concerns and hoped it didn't take an accident on this bridge or roads around it to speed repairs up.

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