Almost €30 million has been spent planning a bypass for Galway city since it was first proposed in 1999, with planning and design of its current incarnation - the N6 Galway City Ring Road - having reached €15 million, it was confirmed this week.
The situation has led Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish [pictured below] to warn that, despite the amounts spent on planning for this major piece of infrastructure, there is "no guarantee" the ring road will go ahead. It is currently awaiting planning permission from An Bord Pleanála, which is due to make a decision later this year.
The planning, design, environmental impact statement, and legal costs of the original Galway city outer bypass - which fell foul of An Bord Pleanála, the High Court, and the Supreme Court in 2009, and was finally abandoned in 2013 after a ruling from the EU Court of Justice - cost €13,687,470. The "total investment to date" in planning and design of its successor, the N6 Galway City Ring Road, "amounts to 15 million".
The figures were revealed to Dep Grealish, in correspondence from Gary Lynch, head of regulatory and administration in Transport Infrastructure Ireland, and follows questions in the Dáíl from Dep Grealish to Transport Minister Shane Ross.
Mr Lynch's letter also noted that the overall cost of the ring road will be €600 million, with construction taking three years, but that this is dependent on securing planning permission from ABP. Regarding the former outer bypass, the letter noted that the total investment in that project was €14,736,656. This figure included the planning and design costs, as well as €817,669 regarding issues of land and property, and €231,517 for archeological work.
'Until there is substantial change to the planning laws, important infrastructural projects will be held up for years by objections and legal challenges'
Speaking to the Galway Advertiser, Dep Grealish expressed fears that “millions more" could yet be spent on this project. "It’s out of hand," he said, "This is turning into Galway’s version of the National Children’s Hospital fiasco — only our costs are continually rising, and for something that might never be built. In the meantime commuters are spending hours in their cars stuck in traffic and homeowners along the route are left in limbo."
Homeowners along the route left 'in limbo'
Under the current ring road proposal, 44 homes will be demolished. The most affected areas are Furrymelia near Barna, Castlegar, and those sections where the ring road will cross the N59 Moycullen Road and the N84 Headford Road.
However Dep Grealish said affected families are being left "in limbo" owing to waiting on the ABP decision. “The families living in these houses now cannot plan forward because they don’t know if it will actually come to pass," he said. "They can’t get planning permission to build elsewhere on their own lands because they technically still have a house and they are not allowed to build on lands that are often restricted to a single family dwelling."
He also pointed out the situation for those whose houses will not be demolished under the current plans, but who, if the road is built, will be "living within yards of a major thoroughfare".
Dep Grealish said the problems with the ring road project lie less with the Galway City Council or An Bord Pleanála, but are mostly a consequence of the State's planning laws. "Until there is substantial change to the planning laws," he said, "important infrastructural projects will be held up for years by objections and legal challenges - as was the case with the city bypass, as well as the Apple data centre saga and the Galway Hospice refusal."