A section of the N55 between Glasson and Lissoy.

Council proposing to upgrade N55 in stages

Work on the new N55 Athlone to Ballymahon Road is likely to be done in stages rather than as one overall project, council officials have revealed.

The subject was raised for discussion by Cllr Frankie Keena during a presentation at the March meeting of Westmeath County Council on the council's planned transportation works programme for 2024.

Cllr Keena said he understood the focus at present to be on the bypassing of Ballykeeran and while he welcomed the allocation of €200,000 towards consultancy work on the road, he wondered what is the present standing of the overall realignment project, and the implications for landowners along the route whose land is frozen and who can't at present apply for planning permission for their sons or daughters.

"Is there any bit of flexibility for people to apply for planning permission under these rules?" he asked, adding that the land has been frozen for quite a while, and God only knew when the route would be completed.

Director of services, Ambrose Clarke responded that when the council set out to select the N55 route, it had been the intention to move the project forward as one scheme.

The project had not, however, featured as part of Project Ireland 2040 or the National Development plan: "It's not a listed scheme and therefore we've had to look at a different mechanism to try and move it forward," Mr Clarke stated.

That was why the council is looking at a bypass for Ballykeeran, and after that, the council will try and obtain funding for a further phase, such as a bypass of Glasson in a bid to get the whole job done.

"But I think it's going to come in small pieces rather than one scheme," Mr Clarke said.

"I do appreciate the members' frustration and the impact this has on landowners with the route being preserved, but as members will be aware it's a route that for a long time we're trying to move forward and we need to preserve the route that has been selected and hopefully funding will materialise in the years ahead."