Calls for the reinstating of temporary lighting at a 3G soccer pitch at Cappagh Park have been rejected by Galway city council officials.
Councillors were told by the director of services at the Galway City Council, Dermot Mahon, at City Hall on Monday evening, that the temporary lighting could not be reinstalled at the council owned pitch as it contravened planning and European law due to the pitch’s proximity to special area of conservation (SAC ).
Mr Mahon said; “I can tell you this is a matter of law. I stated this consistently to the club. A planning application must be submitted because of the adjacent SAC. This is planning law and European law. We are not punishing the club. I cannot give planning permission unless there is an assessment. I cannot do it.
“There is a requirement in planning law and European law which we have to go through. We have to go through a process and that is what we are doing. The issue is being seen as unwillingness [to find a solution], ‘Can you not just do it?’ I cannot do it. That is the law.”
Mr Mahon also informed members of the chamber that a temporary solution of using the facility at Miller’s Lane was rejected by Knocknacarra Football Club.
‘We just want the lights’
Mr Mahon’s comments come after around nearly 200 members of the club protested outside city buildings before Monday’s monthly meeting.
The football club, who were informed last November by a notice issued by local authority they would have their licence suspended if they did remove the temporary lighting, argue that up to 900 children have been left without an appropriate training facility during dark winter evenings.
Club volunteer Siobhan Lally said the failure to resolve the situation at Cappagh Park is seeing the club’s numbers dropping. She said; “[The impact] is absolutely huge because the parents are having to try to travel around the city to bring their children to training and our numbers are dropping. You can’t blame parents because it is very difficult. I know myself, I have five children, and I am trying to get them to different places at the same time. I am having to rely on other people to give lifts.
“The people who are losing out the most of all is the children because they just want to train. It is having a huge impact. There are children who are coming to training, we don’t know what type lives they have, but we know when they come to training they are happy, they are fit, they are involved, and that is what we are trying to get back again. We have more than 100 volunteers in the club [who are] highly motivated to get things going again and we just want the lights.”
‘Are you going to feed them carrots?’
Inside the chamber, councillors expressed their overwhelming support for the club’s position.
Mayor Mike Cubbard said he was ashamed that the situation had led to 900 children being unable to play football, with Fianna Fáil councillor John Connolly saying “the stand off” between the club and the city council reflected poorly on the local authority.
Labour councillor Níall McNelis questioned how a licence could be issued for use of the pitch between 4pm and 9pm with no lights. He said; “All these volunteers want and what the people of Knocknacarra want is to use this pitch. How can someone [issue] a licence from 4pm to 9pm with no lights? Are you going to feed them carrots? It is a very big issue.
“We have seen the children ask for the lights back today. I am asking to figure out a way to allow children to use this pitch until March when it gets bright again. This might be the only area where these children have a chance to live out their dreams in sport, tackle obesity, and get girls involved in sport. [The city council] have addressed this but not come up with a solution.”
Fine Gael councillor Clodagh Higgins said the situation was “hugely frustrating for everyone involved” and submitted a motion to have the lights reinstated. Cllr Higgins said; “[Knocknacarra Football Club] has a wonderful Soccer For All programme. We talk about anti-social behaviour on a regular basis. This is an issue.
“Knocknacarra Football Club was a prime example on how to tackle anti-social behaviour. There is nowhere for them to train. Young members are left in limbo. They are upset. Parents are upset. There seems to be an unwillingness for city council to solve this.”
Chief executive of the Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, responded to the councillors’ concerns by reiterating what Mr Mahon had told councillors earlier at the meeting.
He said; “We want to find solutions to problems. The difficulty with the motion is that it is asking us to do something that isn’t legal to do.”
Mr McGrath also highlighted he would be meeting with club representatives as soon as possible to find a resolution.
Cllr Higgins withdrew her motion.