Too many questions remain unanswered over proposed healthcare centre

No explanation is being offered as to why recreational community land in Shantalla is sought for a private healthcare centre, despite councillors being asked to make a decision on the matter.

Labour city councillor Colette Connolly has raised concerns about the proposed development, ranging from the loss of community land, to the identity of those behind the proposal, to the loss City Hall would incur from selling the land at current market prices.

At Monday’s city council meeting, councillors were asked to support a variation to the Galway City Development Plan on three acres of recreationally zoned lands in Shantalla Community Park.

The rezoning is to facilitate the construction of a primary healthcare centre. A report before councillors said the development would provide “a much needed community health facility” and would not “negatively impact on the development of the remaining green area” for allotments and community use.

However Cllr Connolly said the report was “inadequate” and “failed to offer an explanation as to why the City Manager is pursuing this”. Her fellow councillors agreed and supported her motion to defer a decision until next month’s meeting.

At the meeting, Cllr Connolly told the chamber this was a “very serious issue” and that people in Shantalla did not want recreational areas taken away.

“First there were plans for a helicopter pad, then a carpark, now there’s a private healthcare centre that is to be leased back to the HSE,” she said.

She also questioned the traffic implications that would result from such plans and the effect this would have on the upgrade of Seamus Quirke Road.

“There is a specific objection in the Galway City Development Plan to use this land for recreational use” she said. “This is selling off State assets for a very low value,

City manager Joe O’Neill responded that the plan for the healthcare centre is for the “people in the west” and is not just about Shantalla. “In my view it is worth considering, if you look at what the people in the area will get out of it,” he said.

Selling the state’s silver

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Connolly questioned this assertion. She alleged that the justification being given for the provision of a private health centre is that it is “to be supposedly leased back to the HSE”.

“This would be very bad value to the taxpayer who is being asked to hand over public lands and then pay again through the leasing of primary care facilities from a private entity.”

She is concerned about the fact that no explanation is being given as to why public lands in Shantalla should be chosen for the proposed centre when there is “no correspondence from the Government, University Hospital Galway, or a private entity demanding such a facility on this specific site”.

Cllr Connolly said selling the land in question would be “like selling off the State’s silver”.

“To sell land now in a depressed climate is ludicrous,” she said, “and will only afford the Council a short term monetary gain while simultaneously establishing a precedent that RA zoned lands can be considered for auction to the highest bidder.”

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