If planning approval is granted for an extension of Galway Port, it would "free up around 30 acres" of the inner harbour for development, paving the way for the city to be "reshaped and enhanced".
This is the view of Fine Gael Galway West TD Hildegarde Naughton, who said the proposed development is a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape the city and address many of its current difficulties", particularly in the area of housing and accommodation.
A decision is expected from An Bord Pleanála in the coming months on an application by the Galway Harbour Company to extend the harbour area into the bay, thereby vacating acres of land surrounding the existing docks. Dep Naughton said development of the inner harbour area would "turn the city to face the sea"; create "huge potential for cultural and tourism initiatives"; and address the shortage of office space, hotel accommodation, and residential properties.
The TD said that Galway had been allowed to "sprawl and develop" as a "cluster of suburbs", but the inner harbour represented an opportunity to "rectify historical deficits" in planning, as well as shortages of certain types of space. She said development of the inner harbour would provide homes for families within the city centre, providing a population that would support schools and businesses in the urban area.
'Unless it’s allowed to grow and compete with other commercial harbours, Galway Harbour is likely to close'
The Government has also approved and funded the development of a masterplan for the inner harbour under the Urban Development Regeneration Fund. There are also masterplans for Sandy Road/Liosban and Nuns Island.
Dep Naughton said the redevelopment of the harbour would secure the future of Galway Port, which is "currently limited in its commercial activity" due to the constraints of the existing infrastructure. She said redevelopment would allow for larger ships to dock in Galway. Currently, the numbers and types of ship are restricted by the shallow depth of the harbour and other infrastructural constraints.
"Unless it’s allowed to grow and compete with other commercial harbours, it’s likely to close. We can’t allow that to happen if we, as a nation, are serious about regional development,” she warned.
Redevelopment could also see a potential boost in tourism as cruise liners would be able to use the new harbour for stopovers. “Cultural and tourism initiatives, as well as the arts, could be central to planning in the new development area," said Dep Naughton. "The city’s shortage of urban accommodation, hotel beds, office and commercial space could also be adequately addressed.”