Galway county councillors voted unanimously this week to reaffirm the council’s determination to ensure that the Galway City Outer Bypass is progressed under the IROPI (Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest ) process which is believed will result in a positive outcome.
At a meeting of Galway County Council on Monday councillors were given a status report update on the Galway City Outer Bypass project which has been dogged by delays due to objections and legal complications.
Outlining the long road the The Galway City Outer Bypass Scheme has had to travel the status report noted that the project, which begins at the end of the M6 motorway, near Garraun, and runs to the R336, near Na Forbacha at Baile Nua, was first lodged with An Bord Pleanála on December 11, 2006, and was followed by an oral hearing in November 2007 which was completed in January 2008.
An Bord Pleanála notified the council of its decision to approve the scheme from Garraun, at the end of the M6 motorway, to Gortatleva on the N59 (Galway to Clifden ) subject to revisions at its junction with the N84 Ballindooly and its junction at Garraun where it joined the M6. The section of the route from Gortatleva (N59 ) to the R336 at Baile Nua was refused planning permission principally because of the route’s impact on bog cotton south of Tonabrocky. The grant of permission was then appealed by Sweetman and Ireland to the High Court in January 2009 and subsequently to the Irish Supreme Court. The Supreme Court referred three questions - relevant to the process used by An Bord Pleanála in making its decision - to the European Court of Justice (ECJ ) on June 3, 2010. The case was heard in Luxembourg in September of last year and a preliminary opinion was issued by the ECJ in November.
Reading from the report director of services for roads, transportation, marine and general services, Frank Gilmore, told councillors that the final judgment of the ECJ was delivered on Thursday, April 11 last, which confirmed its “negative outlook” but that this only refers to the “process used by An Bord Pleanála” in approving it. Mr Gilmore said that the ECJ judgment will now go back before the Irish Supreme Court for its advice and final judgement in the case.
The 14 page ECJ judgment also pointed out that national planning authorities may grant an application for a project if that application is made through the IROPI procedure and the authority is satisfied there is no alternative solution.
Responding to councillors’ questions Mr Gilmore said that the councillors were very “positive” about the application proceeding under the IROPI process which is thought to take between 12 to 18 months. Mr Gilmore added that an alternative route will be found for the western section of the bypass (which had been refused planning permission by An Bord Pleanála ), and that despite many more studies being necessary the scheme remains very highly valued. He said: “The city and county councils are fully supportive of the scheme and look forward to an early outcome from the Supreme Court so that the scheme can be developed. It is a vital part of the transport infrastructure for both city and county, and particularly so for Connemara. Galway County Council is in discussions with the National Roads Authority with a view to preparing a fresh application to develop the project.”
“It is one of the most important projects in the county, it is important that the council reaffirms its determination to construct it and progress its application under the IROPI process,” said Cllr Peter Feeney (FG ), who then proposed the motion to that effect which was unanimously agreed.