City councillors have voted unanimously to remove the controversial proposal for a bus corridor through Merlin Woods from the Galway City Development Plan.
The motion, which was put forward by Cllr Frank Fahy, seconded by Cllr Colette Connolly and signed by all city councillors, was presented to the executive at Monday evening’s Galway City Council meeting. The motion asked that the council begin the process of removing the Merlin Quality Bus Corridor from the development plan with recommendations that included the consideration of alternatiave road proposal, to designate Merlin Woods as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), as well as carrying out detailed house-to-house surveys and making necessary corrections.
Director of services for planning, Thomas Connell, told councillors the objective of the Quality Bus Corridor is included in two city development plans and is tied in with several strategic policy documents. “It wasn’t put in lightly. It is to allow for sustainable transport for the east of the city,” said Mr Connell, who added that as the removal of the QBC from Galway City Development Plan will have “significant implications” it should be included in a detailed assessment which will be carried out by council officials with a report to come back before councillors later in the year. The City Development Plan is due for review next January.
City manager Brendan McGrath assured councillors, “We hear your wishes loud and clear.” He further explained there is no urgency with this project as there is “no prospect of funding” at present.
Fine Gael MEP for Midlands-North west constituency, Jim Higgins, this week commended the decision by the city council to “scrap” the proposed bus corridor adding that “common sense has prevailed”.
Speaking from the European Parliament in Brussels, MEP Higgins said: “I am delighted that the brakes have finally been put on these plans. The Merlin Woods are a fabulous natural amenity, hugely valued by the people of east Galway city, and they must be protected.
“Cllr Fahy has been working tirelessly on this issue for some time now, and I was delighted to offer him my full support in stopping these proposals. Credit must also go to the Friends of Merlin Woods group, who have shown fantastic citizens’ initiative in fighting for the natural resources of Galway city.”
As Ireland’s only member of the European Parliament’s Transport Committee, MEP Higgins formally brought the case to the European Commission, under the EU’s Habitats Directive. MEP Higgins concluded: “I’m glad that pressure has finally been brought to bear and that the council has seen sense. Ultimately it’s about getting the balance right - between crucial public transport services and securing natural amenities for the people of Galway city. New plans will now be drawn up and we must ensure that they provide for both.”