The announcement this week of planning approval for the state of the art Bonham Quay project is a welcome one in that it will rid the city of the wasteland that lies just a hundred metres from its heart. The removal of the oil tanks a decade ago on that docks site was welcome too, but what it left behind was a barren site that was just calling out to be developed.
Given the financial devastation of the intervening decade, not many foresaw that the site would be developed in this generation. Most of us feared that it would be left as a sad reminder of what could have been, such as the Crown site is at Mervue.
The announcement this week by An Bord Pleanala that the project can proceed is one that can herald a new look at how we do things in this city. The proposal for Bonham Quay is an attractive one that will no doubt enhance the aesthetics of the site, and hopefully attract high end companies who demand high end solutions to their high end problems.
It has been said that Galway has lost out on serious investment by sexy tech companies because of the lack of Grade A office space, with the facilities and connections that modern tech businesses require as a minimum. I have no doubt that this is true, but big tech companies are also aware of the other issues that hinder the attractiveness of this city as an industrial location.
By attracting high end companies to this city, we hope that it will lead to high-end solutions to the matter of traffic and commuting.
In a survey undertaken by Galway Chamber just a few months ago, the biggest issue that occupied the minds of city businesses was that of traffic. And now that a major project is going to bring thousands of extra employees into the city centre each day, it is essential that serious alternatives to the current traffic situation be looked at in tandem with this development.
Alternatives such as being radical with public transport; solutions that mean cyclists can travel to and from work and school in safety and not have to run the gauntlet of frustrated drivers caught in traffic for hours on the outskirts of the city.
Like a growing weed, traffic and commuting will strangle this city’s competitiveness if it is not tackled. The arrival of 3,000 new employees into the heart of the city in about two years time should focus the minds of those who run our metropolis and who can determine new policies to make Galway free flowing and safe for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.
Bonham Quay and other developments can be the catalyst for all of that. What we need now are innovative ideas about how this generation of Galwegians and the next can go to and from their work, their study, their entertainment in comfort and ease. Let this debate begin.