Concern is growing among business and residential communities about the proposal to build a Tesco hypermarket on the Seamus Quirke Road/Rahoon Road.
Local businessman and former Fianna Fáil mayor of Galway Micheál Ó hUiginn has lodged a planning application to the Galway City Council on behalf of Tesco to build a two-storey complex on the site of his former lumberyard. However the current mayor, Hildegarde Naughton, believes the development could negatively affect both the the city centre and Westside Shopping Centre.
In a recent letter to the Highfield Park Residents’ Association, she wrote that the “rezoning of this land to a District Centre area will have serious implications for our city centre trade. Similar rezonings have taken place on the outskirts of Limerick where excess lands were rezoned for commercial purposes thus undermining the retail strategy and leaving the city centre like a ghost town due to vacant premises”.
Meanwhile the chair of the Galway City Business Association, Paul Faller, said there was already adequate retail space in the city and that such out-of-town developments result in local business closures and net job losses.
Furthermore Tara Buckley, director general of RGDATA, the representative organisation for 4,000 family owned shops, convenience stores and supermarkets in Ireland, warned that the development could “hoover up businesses within a 20km radius”.
In July, councillors voted to amend the City Development Plan 2011-2017 and rezone the 9.5 acre site on the Seamus Quirke Road/Rahoon Road as a District Centre. This was despite the advice of the city manager Joe O’Neill and director of services Tom Connell to councillors to vote against the rezoning, as they felt it was not in line with proper planning guidelines.
Local TDs for Galway West, Brian Walsh and Derek Nolan subsequently raised the issue of the legitimacy of the controversial rezoning with Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan. Minister Hogan is currently reviewing the national Retail Guideline Planning.
The city’s five Labour councillors supported the manager’s view on the basis that two such centres, Briarhill and Knocknacarra, already exist, so another centre was not justified in terms of population.
Labour’s Cllr Colette Connolly feels the proposed Tesco store would “jeopardise existing businesses in the Westside and the commercial viability of the two existing District Centres.”
She also said that as the site is “extensive”, such development “would pose a significant traffic burden on neighbouring residential areas and impact negatively on residential amenity”.
She also raised concerns about the “potential noise and pollution from major commercial retail activity” and that such noise would “seriously impact negatively on residential amenity”.