A meeting takes place in Brussels next week to find a way to avoid conflict between the EU Environment Commission, the Irish courts, and local and national Government over the future of the controversial Galway City Outer Bypass.
Galway West TD Frank Fahey and North West MEP Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher will meet the chef de cabinet of the EU Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas, on Tuesday to discuss the bypass.
The bypass seeks to connect the N6 (Galway to Ballinasloe road ) in Garraun North (in south east Co Galway ) with the R336 (coast road to An Spidéal ) in An Baile Nua, including a link from a junction at Cappagh to the Western Distributor Road.
In December An Bord Pleanála approved the part of the bypass between Garraun and Gortatleva, but refused permission for the part between Gortaleva and An Baile Nua, including the Western Distributor connection.
ABP refused permission for the western half, saying it would have a negative effect on the slender cotton grass at Tonabrocky Bog and that there were “fundamental shortcomings” in parts of the bypass’ western section.
As a result only part of the bypass was approved by ABP but this decision was appealed to the High Court. The court ruled in favour of the bypass, but one matter has been referred to the Supreme Court and it will be some time before a judgement is made on it.
However the implications of the High Court decisions involved in the case are relevant to the EU Habitats Directive. Under the Habitats Directive, limestone pavement is listed as a “priority natural habitat type” to protect habitats which are in danger of disappearance. The proposed bypass could result in the loss of a significant area of the high quality limestone pavement.
As a result, Dep Fahey wrote to Commissioner Dimas seeking a meeting with him or his officials regarding the outer bypass in an attempt to see if any potential areas of conflict can be resolved. On Tuesday Dep Fahey and MEP Gallagher will meet Commissioner Stavros’ chef de cabinet to discuss “the possibilities that exist to ensure the bypass can progress and that the provisions of the Habitats Directive are not breached by the development of the project”.