City councillors frustrated over effect of proposed bypass plans

Galway city councillors were given a chance to voice their opinions on the proposed routes of a new city bypass at this week’s local authority meeting, prompting one councillor to comment that he was sick of hearing about “butterflies, bog cotton, flowers, and trees”.

This was the view of Independent councillor Mike Cubbard following a presentation from Eileen McCarthy, of ARUP Consulting Engineers, on the N6 Galway City Transport Project. This is the new title of the development formerly known as the Galway City Outer Bypass.

Councillor Cubbard was referencing the fact that planning permission for a portion of that road was refused as it affected bog cotton at Tonabrocky. There was also an issue with limestone pavements around Lough Corrib. He said there was complete pandemonium about the six new proposed routes for the road, which have been revealed in recent weeks.

Eileen McCarthy outlined the plan to have the six routes for the bypass narrowed down to one by April, following public consultation with affected parties, which is currently taking place. It is estimated that whatever route is chosen, between 50 and 130 houses will have to be demolished to make way for the development.

Ms McCarthy said people should be under no illusion that something is needed to address traffic issues in Galway, and studies have shown that increasing publc transport options will not alleviate the problem. She outlined that most roundabouts and junctions in the city operate at around 115 per cent capacity when the that figure should stand at about 85 per cent.

A number of councillors voiced their dissatisfaction that a variation of the old route was not considered. Fianna Fail’s Michael Crowe said we seem to be governed more by habitats than by people. “The constraints are all about special areas of conservation [SACs] and the habitats directive. There wasn’t one mention of a human being. There are six options now on the table. You have brought the bypass closer to the city. I don’t believe it needs to be nearer the city. I think it needs to be further out. For the record, I was one of the 300 people who got a letter [that my house could be knocked]. I am supportive of a bypass but in a few years a juggernaut could be coming through my kitchen.”

Eileen McCarthy outlined that more money could be wasted assessing the viability of the old route, but there was legislation in place to protect the habitats. “You will only be allowed affect this habitat, if you can prove there is no alternative, or for reasons of overriding national interest, which are public safety and human health. But alternatives do exist so we will only get the same answer [no].’’

Councillor Frank Fahy asked what councillors could do to get the powers-that-be in Europe to facilitate a new road being built and allowing the people of Galway stay in their homes. Independent representative Terry O’Flaherty said she could forsee legal challenges in relation to compulsory purchase orders [CPOs] to knock the houses.

Labour’s Neil McNeilus inquired if all homeowners who will potentially be affected had been notified. “We all know the project is needed, but at the same time you are talking about homes and communities being broken up. Somebody’s home is their castle. Have people whose houses may not be knocked but who will be looking out on the road or backing on to it, been contacted? People are really, really upset. The hurt that is out there is unimaginable.”

Councillor Pearce Flannery said the six routes which were on the table were going to cause such destruction that he really believed alternatives must be considered.

The plans are to be put on display at City Hall.

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