Environment Minister Phil Hogan could yet overturn rezoning decision

Efforts to rezone a site on Shantalla Road to allow for a major Tesco supermarket may have received the support of the Galway City Council, but it could still be turned down if the Environment Minister Phil Hogan deems it to contravene his Department’s guidelines.

At Monday’s city council meeting, councillors voted by eight votes to seven, in favour of the controversial rezoning of the Shantalla site owned by former Galway mayor Micheál Ó hUiginn. The vote means the site can now be upgraded from commercial/industrial to a district centre.

This means an application can now be made to locate a major Tesco supermarket and car park on the site. The upgrade to district centre allows for other retail, shops, cafes, and offices to be included as well.

However according to Fergal McGrath of Maunsells Residents Association, which led the opposition to the re-zoning, Minister Hogan “may decide that, because it goes against his Department’s guidelines, this particular rezoning is unacceptable.”

Mr McGrath’s view was echoed by Labour coucnillor Colette Connolly. Speaking after the meeting, she described the decision to allow an urban district centre on the site as “total madness”. She said it was contrary to th e 2005 ministerial guidelines where UDCs are defined as being necessary in an area with an emerging and growing population.

“However, Shantalla has seen a decrease of over five per cent in population with a corresponding 18 per cent reduction in Newcastle,” she said.

Nonetheless it is widely expected that the development will go ahead and site owner Micheál Ó hUiginn said he was “delighted the councillors had listened to the opinions of the people in the area”.

“The majority of residents of Maunsells Road and Park, Shantalla, Highfield, Rahoon and surrounding areas have welcomed the development of a supermarket in the area,” Mr Ó hUiginn told the Galway Advertiser.

He acknowledged that there are concerns about traffic but he believes that when the final plans are unveiled and the residents have studied them, “they will support the plans which will enhance the area and provide a far better and convenient shopping choice.”

He added that by then the works on Seamus Quirke Road will be completed and traffic on Maunsells Road “will be greatly reduced”.

Mr Ó hUiginn was also concerned to counteract a number of claims that have arisen regarding the proposed development.

“I am bewildered at claims that the plans included a petrol station on the site,” he said. “There never was such a plan at any stage, and I have no idea where this notion arose. Furthermore, there has been continuous talk of a €35 million development by Tesco - a ‘hypermarket’ no less, when I have stated time and again that this is an investment of my own of €10 million, to build a standard supermarket that, hopefully, will have Tesco as the main operator.”

Fergal McGrath said the Maunsells Residents Association warmly welcome the clarifications and commitments given by Mr Ó hUiginn regarding the above and that the development is likely to include “a new road at the request of the city planners, which we presume will reduce the risk of significant additional traffic in the Shantalla area. These are all positive developments.”

Nonetheless he said he was “disappointed by the city council’s decision, but we accept it”.

However Mr Ó hUiginn sought to reassure residents that any and all concerns will be heeded.

“I wish to thank all the residents who voiced their support for my plans,” he said. “I have lived in the area all my life, and represented it on the council for 40 years. During that time, when anyone in the area had concerns about any issue they knew where to find me, and that their worries would be addressed by me. I believe the vast majority of the residents know nothing has changed in this regard.”

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