Bogland and plant life have again conspired to defeat a major road upgrade in Connemara, with An Bord Pleanála refusing to grant permission for works on the N59 between Maam Cross and Clifden.
Three iconic Connemara regions with Special Area of Conservation designations would be “directly impacted” by roadworks according to ABP. The Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs Seán Kyne has expressed “dismay at the refusal”, and said he will examine if the Imperative Reasons for Overriding Public Interest process can be used as “the best way to proceed”.
In its decision, ABP said the proposed N59 upgrade would adversely impact on Blanket bog and Northern Atlantic wet heath, which contains Erica tetra, a species of flowering plant with pink, drooping, flowers found in three European SACs - the Twelve Bens/Garraun Complex, the Maumturk Mountains, and the Connemara Bog Complex, as well as on the Connemara Bog Complex Special Protection Area.
ABP said there was an “absence of clear information” on how the above mentioned plantlife would be protected during construction. “It is not possible to conclude that the proposed road development would not result in the loss of such habitats, for which it is a stated conservation objective to maintain or restore the favourable conservation status,” the decision from ABP read.
It added that construction would “adversely affect the integrity” of the SACs, and that the proposed roadworks would “be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.
Minister Kyne has criticised the decision saying it will “delay the upgrade”. He added it was “particularly disappointing given the fact the majority of the project is online, meaning it doesn’t depart much from the existing N59”.
However, he acknowledged ABP’s statement that it is generally favourably disposed to the road improvement “in the interest of traffic safety and community need is encouraging”.
Minister Kyne has spoken to Galway County Council officials regarding ABP’s decision, and to “exploring the best way to proceed which may involve the IROPI process.”
Bog cotton, plantlife, and Special Area of Conservation status were some - but were by no means the only reason - why original plans for a Galway city outer bypass were refused in the late 2000s.