‘Plan B’ needed as future of outer bypass looks doubtful
By Kernan Andrews
A ‘Plan B’ is urgently needed on the Galway City Outer Bypass as the chances of the project getting the green light from the Europe Court of Justice are “only 50-50”, according to a Government TD.
Fine Gael Galway West TD Brian Walsh is warning stakeholders in the outer bypass to prepare alternative plans for such a roadway following discussions with EU officials and legal representatives.
The controversial project will be the subject of an oral hearing in the European Court of Justice next week, after it was referred by the Supreme Court for a preliminary ruling on matters relating to the EU Habitats Directive.
However, Dep Walsh has expressed doubts over the prospect of the project receiving a favourable decision.
“My hopes have been dampened from speaking to EU officials in recent weeks,” he told the Galway Advertiser. “While no public representative can influence or pre-empt the outcome of the judicial process, it seems on balance that the prospect of a positive preliminary ruling is probably at best 50-50.”
Dep Walsh said his focus since his election to the Dáil last year has been to secure government funding for this project and over the past 18 months, “some progress was made”. Nonetheless an alternative plan must be prepared by stakeholders “so no time is wasted in progressing the application in the event of an adverse ruling”.
The bypass is being challenged under Article 6.3 of the EU Habitats Directive, on the basis that the road would pose a threat to bog cotton in certain areas of the route. However, Article 6.4 of the directive may allow such projects to proceed in spite of the impact on Natura 2000 areas on condition that there are “imperative reasons of overriding public interest”.
Dep Walsh said this would require a new application to be submitted to An Bord Pleanála, outlining social and economic reasons of overriding interest, and demonstrating that “no feasible alternative routes existed”.
“We have waited long enough for the Galway City Outer Bypass,” he said, “and for the first time there is real momentum and the commitment of funding behind this project. We cannot afford to waste time by failing to prepare for every eventuality.”