Fianna Fáil leader called on to intervene in re-zoning controversy

Councillors will be asked to vote again on Monday

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has been called on to intervene in the controversial attempt to re-zone a former timber yard on the Rahoon/Seamus Quirke Road into a major shopping centre.

Maunsells Road residents have written to Mr Martin asking him to direct the city’s three Fianna Fáil councillors - Michael Crowe, Ollie Crowe, and Peter Keane - to withdraw their support for the motion to make the site a ‘designated district centre’.

At Monday’s Galway City Council meeting, councillors will be asked to vote on whether or not to allow a site on the Rahoon Road/Seamus Quirke Road, owned by former mayor and Fianna Fáil councillor Micheál Ó hUiginn, to be re-zoned to facilitate the development of a Tesco supermarket and petrol station.

However it appears the council, like public opinion, is split on the issue, with council insiders reluctant to predict how the final vote will turn out.

It is understood the majority of Labour councillors and Independent Catherine Connolly will vote against, but that former PD councillors may be supportive. As such the decisions of the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors will be crucial.

The matter originally came before councillors in January, but was defeated on the casting vote of then deputy mayor Brian Walsh. However Mr Ó hUiginn challenged the decision in the High Court which has led to the vote having to be taken again.

In his letter to Micheál Martin, Maunsells Residents Association chairman Fergal McGrath argued the proposed re-zoning was “unwise, unnecessary and unacceptable”.

He said the city manager’s report stated the re-zoning “would threaten the viability of existing shops, frustrate half-built schemes advancing further, and detract from the role of the city centre and any aspiration of achieving regeneration of lands at Galway Shopping Centre, Ceannt Station, and the Harbour”.

Mr McGrath believes the proposed Tesco store would “change the residential nature of the area forever”. He also said the construction work would take 18 months, leading to “significant disruption with truck movements along Maunsells Road, Shantalla Road, and Rahoon Road”.

However not all local residents appear to be against the development and some have denied being consulted by objectors.

“There’s only one major supermarket in the area, and we need a competitor like Tesco that would do wonders in reducing prices and offering more choice,” a spokesperson for one group told the Galway Advertiser. “There is no outrage about having a decent supermarket here.”

Site owner Micheál Ó hUiginn has also stated he would invest €10 million in clearing the derelict buildings and constructing the foodstore. “I will build it, not Tesco,” he said, “and it will be a standard supermarket, not a ‘hypermarket’ as claimed by objectors.”

“I hope to deliver a top class shopping facility for this neighbourhood; something that will provide much needed construction jobs in the short term and full time employment opportunities for all, ranging from the unskilled to managerial levels.”

He warned that residents in Highfield, Maunsells Road and Park, Shantalla, and the surrounding communities would not take kindly towards “ a derelict site in a residential area” remianing derelict.

“That will only serve to encourage vandalism and drive down property values in already straitened times. History tells us that urban decay begins with one vacant, neglected site,” he said.

“There is a ridiculous claim that traffic on that road would increase from 6,000 cars daily to 12,000,” he said. “The only reason traffic is so high now is because Seamus Quirke Road is undergoing complete realignment, and thousands of drivers now use Maunsells Road and Taylor’s Hill as an escape route.”

The current roadworks are scheduled to be completed by October when, O’ hUiginn says, four lanes of roadway will be open to east and westbound traffic. “Traffic on Maunsells Road,” he said, “will be reduced to a fraction of current levels come October.”

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