Residents in Barna have set up an action group due to their concerns over the proposed new Galway city bypass. The group will hold a public meeting in Barna Golf Club next Wednesday evening at 8pm.
Earlier this year, six options for the new road were unveiled to the public. There was uproar when it was revealed that between 50 and 130 houses would be demolished to make way for the road, depending on the route chosen.
Galway County Council is the lead authority on the project and county council planners are working in tandem with their city counterparts, The National Roads Authority and ARUP Consulting Engineers. The preferred route for the N6 Transport Project is due to be announced by the end of this month. Landowners and homeowners on the selected corridor will be contacted before the route is made known to the public.
There has been much anger and frustration expressed due to the fact that the 39 elected county councillors and 18 city councillors have no statutory role in the decision making process.
There has also been major consternation about the impact of the plans on two of Galway’s best known landmarks; NUIG and Ballybrit racecourse. Residents of a number of areas that will potentially be adversely affected, including Menlo, Newcastle, and Busypark, have also organised public meetings to voice their opposition to the controversial proposals.
The so-called blue, red and green routes have the worst effect on Barna and particularly on the townland of Clochscoilte. Chairman of the Barna Action Group, Frank Flynn, says when the six routes were revealed earlier this year, residents were completely shocked at the plans. “It hit us like a bomb really. We just assumed that planners would return to the original route but it would travel further north to avoid the Special Area of Conservation [SAC] at Tonabrocky. The idea the motorway would go through the city came as a bolt from the blue.”
Mr Flynn says he accepts there are serious traffic congestion issues in Galway, which will get even worse if a solution is not put in place. However, he believes the current proposals will not solve the problem. “How can you describe this as a bypass? The road is being rammed through urban development. The problem is only going to be transferred from one side of the city to another. All the congestion will be diverted on to our coast road.’’
The campaigner says next week’s meeting has been organised because residents want to get the message out about how unhappy they are with the situation. “People are very, very angry. I have had people call to my house crying. It is devastating to think your home will be knocked down.”
Asked if the group was in favour of any of the six proposed routes, the answer was a firm no. “Not to the extent of the property acquisition and demolition. The fact that it is seen as rational that up to 130 homes and businesses can be knocked is scary.”
Frank Flynn is another who is of the view that planners must try and get the original Galway City Outer Bypass route progressed via Article 6.4 of the European Habitats Directive. The IROPI [Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest] provision - as Article 6.4 is known- was first used to seek approval for a motorway in Hessen, Germany. Galway Harbour Company has also used it to make a case for its harbour expansion plan.
Article 6.4 states that a project which compromises the integrity of a priority habitat may still proceed in the absence of alternative solutions. A plan or project may be carried out for imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature.
Council planners and representatives from ARUP Consulting have argued that a planning application under this clause will be unsuccessful as there are proven alternative routes, to the old outer bypass, in place.