Planning shortcomings, not objectors, to blame for bypass not getting permission

'It is disappointing that politicians blame anyone who exercises his/her democratic rights in relation to the proposed bypass'

Independent Galway West TD, Noel Grealish, in the March 28 edition of the Galway Advertiser, said the problems with the new proposed Ring Road/Inner Bypass lay 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."

The Galway branch of An Taisce welcomes the opportunity to respond to what Dep Grealish has said. An Taisce was involved in the oral hearings into the outer bypass and the new hospice, but was not involved in appealing the Apple data centre proposal. An Taisce will be involved in the upcoming oral hearing into the proposed ring road/inner bypass.

An Bord Pleanála was established in 1977 under the Local Government (Planning and Development ) Act, 1976 and is responsible for the determination of planning application appeals and determination of applications for strategic infrastructure development including major roads. More than half of the bord’s members are appointed by the Government with the remainder appointed by four groups of organisations representing professional, environmental, development, local government, rural and local development, and general interests.

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland’s natural and built heritage. It is an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. It is not a government body, semi-state, or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.

'Shortcomings in the evaluation of alternatives led to the decisions in relation to the proposed Galway City Outer Bypass and the proposed hospice beside Merlin Park'

In 2008 An Bord Pleanala approved the Eastern section of the proposed Galway Outer City Bypass (from the M6 to the River Corrib ). It found the impact of the project on Lough Corrib candidate Special Area of Conservation site would not adversely affect the “integrity” of the site. The ABP decision was subsequently overturned because the EU Habitats Directive required that such projects not adversely affect the integrity of a conservation site, in this case the Lough Corrib candidate Special Area of Conservation site.

The western section of the proposed Galway Outer City Bypass, from the River Corrib to Barna, was not approved by An Bord Pleanala for several reasons including insufficient traffic volumes to justify that section.

It is disappointing that Dep Grealish should seek to blame anyone who exercises his/her democratic rights in relation to the proposed ring road/inner bypass. He is not alone in that approach. Councillor Michael Crowe recently sought to do the same in relation to the recent decision by An Bord Pleanala to overturn the Galway City Council decision to grant permission for the building of a new hospice in the EU Annex 1 Habitat meadows adjoining Merlin Park Hospital.

Shortcomings in the evaluation of alternatives led to the decisions in relation to the proposed Galway City Outer Bypass and the proposed hospice beside Merlin Park Hospital. The new ring road/inner bypass will likely suffer the same fate unless a sufficiently comprehensive evaluation of alternatives has been undertaken by those proposing it.

The oral hearing to be held by An Bord Pleanala later this year will tell whether or not the Galway city and county councils have done enough to justify to ABP its request to be allowed to build the proposed ring road/inner bypass.

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