The future of the Galway City Outer Bypass will be decided tomorrow when the case finally goes before the EU Court of Justice in Luxembourg today (Thursday ).
However, the decision of the EU Court is not a ruling on the bypass; it will determine the process which will need to be followed if planning permission is secured for the project.
A decision is expected on the guidance which the Irish Supreme Court sought on a point of law concerning the integrity of Special Areas of Conservation in relation to planned infrastructure projects.
The EU Court of Justice decision will address what criteria an authority, such as a county council, needs to apply when determining whether a planning project will have an adverse effect on the integrity of area, and whether a project can be authorised if it will affect, partially or wholly, the integrity of a protected area.
Fine Gael Galway West TD Seán Kyne said a favourable decision on the clarification of the Habitats’ Directive will enable legal proceedings to continue in the Irish courts. If the EU Court finds the bypass plans contravene the directive “then a new approach will be needed”.
Should the latter scenario arise, Dep Kyne is calling for an Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest application. This is where planners acknowledge and accept a project will cause damage to a protected area, but feel this damage is ultimately necessary for service provision and economic prosperity.
“A lot of the ground work for an IROPI application will already have been done with the initial planning application and funding for the bypass,” he said. “While we must respect the decision of EU Court of Justice, I believe the decision will provide a renewed impetus for securing the bypass.”
Dep Kyne has also been in contact with Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, who stated that the Government is committed “to overcoming any legal and planning difficulties so that this important project can continue”.