Docklands development is too important to see stalled, says Walsh

Galway hopes to capitalise on the lucrative cruise liner market.

Galway hopes to capitalise on the lucrative cruise liner market.

If the docklands and the proposals to turn it into a major port and harbour area are subjected to an area development plan, the proposal will go the way of the Ardaun - a noble plan the city is still waiting to see become a reality.

This is the view of Fine Gael councillor Brian Walsh, who was speaking at Monday’s city council meeting, following The Galway Harbour Company’s presentation on its vision to renovate the docklands area.

The presentation was given by Paul Carey, chair of the harbour board, Eamonn Bradshaw, harbour board CEO, and Cpt Brian Sheridan, the harbour master. They want Galway to become a “visionary waterfront city which will be a flagship landmark project for the west of Ireland which will rival any comparable development in the world”.

In a detailed and complex presentation, the board outlined how the project - estimated at €200 million - involves the redevelopment of 32 acres of city centre property and the construction of a new 1,400m long pier, and 80 acre peninsula in the bay.

The proposed redevelopment will be a phased development. A presentation will be given to Galway county councillors next month and the plans will go on public display in January. A planning application will be lodged with An Bord Pleanála in April, and should permission be granted, work will start in 2011 with a view to being completed in 2019.

The Harbour Board hope the new port and harbour facilities will increase trade and allow for cruise liners and larger commercial ships to come to Galway, and be a centre of marine/leisure tourism; and provide commercial opportunities for the wider Galway community. They also hope there will be public support for the project.

Fine Gael councillor Pádraig Conneely asked if the proposal would go ahead in Galway city as there were also calls for it to go ahead in Rossaveal. Mr Bradshaw said the Rossaveal proposal is “off the agenda”. He also added that “issues of access” to the city, allowing people to get to the harbour area easily, are vital. As such, he said, it is “crucial” and “vital” to the harbour development that the Galway City Outer Bypass goes ahead.

His party colleague Brain Walsh said the opposed redevelopment was “the most exciting infrastructural project the city has undertaken in 20 years” and that cruise liners being able to dock in Galway will be a “massive” boost for business and the city’s economy.

He proposed that councillors “in principle” endorse the harbour board’s vision for the proposed phased development.

Independent councillor Catherine Connolly sought an amendment to the proposal, saying a local area plan was needed for such a significant development. However Cllr Walsh said local area plans were drawn up for the Ardaun bus corridor on the Dublin Road and for Murrough and all development came to a halt.

“If we were to go down that same road with this application it would never see the light of day,” he said. “We are five years waiting for something to happen on the Ardaun Corridor and longer for Murrough.”

He also said that a local area plan makes no sense when the council is drawing up the new city development plan. “All concerns about any plans for the area can be raised there and incorporated into the city development plan,” he said.

In the end Cllr Connolly’s motion was defeated and Cllr Walsh’s original motion was passed.

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