The entire Irish planning system needs to be completely overhauled in light of the “crazy debacle” that sees wild flowers given greater importance than families and their homes according to Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish.
Dep Grealish was commenting on the fact that anything between 30 and 130 homes in the city may have to be demolished to make way for a redesigned Galway City Outer Bypass - now called N6 Galway City Transport Project.
Dep Grealish says “the whole planning process needs to be re-examined”, that would, in limited circumstances, permit certain major projects “go through a protected area”. He said: "Every step necessary to minimise its effect on such areas, but at the end of the day, people should be the number one priority.”
The European Court decision last year that the original route planned for the bypass could not go through an area of bog cotton in Drom led to that route’s abandonment. Six potential alternative routes have since been mapped out by consultants employed by the Galway City Council, including route options for a ring road crossing the river Corrib; a public transport only solution only; or the upgrading the existing N6 through the city. A route will be chosen in April following public consultation.
However the proposed new routes will affect homes in Barna, Menlo, Dangan, Bushypark, Newcastle, Westside, and Terryland, and has led to some 300 homeowners receiving letters informing them their homes are along the corridors – it has been conceded that regardless of which route is picked between 30 and 130 houses will be demolished.
The fall-out from the European Court decision and the drawing up of the new routes has led Dep Grealish to describe the situation as “crazy” and “a debacle”.
“We are putting the importance of wild flowers and designated Special Areas of Conservation before people,” he said. “We need to take a serious look at our priorities when the lives, homes, and farms of dozens of families are threatened in order to preserve areas designated for conservation.”
He also pointed that that for the past 15 years, many people have been “unable to do anything with their homes” on the basis that they were on the path of the GCOB, and who now “have to turn around and cope with the new reality”.
Dep Grealish said special areas of conservation are important in ensuring proper planning when it comes to building housing estates and commercial development, but in situations like the N6 Galway City Transport Project, “we need to take a different approach”.