An Taisce has questioned the logic of a new Galway County Council policy that effectively bans roadside clean-ups. The environmental watchdog said it is concerned that the rules introduced by the local authority will act as a disincentive for volunteers and voluntary groups to get involved in community clean-ups.
The new policy states: “No works will be permitted to take place on any major roads with a speed limit greater than 80 kilometres per hour and traffic volumes greater than 1,000 vehicles per day.”
Most roads in the county, apart from very minor ones, would come in under the speed or volume stipulation.
The definition of “works” in the policy extends to litter picking, grass cutting, strimming, spraying, watering plants, emptying litterbins, street sweeping, cleaning recycling centres, hedge trimming and maintenance of flower beds.
The policy is a function of Council management and was not voted on by elected members. Community groups are fearful that, without voluntary clean-ups, there will be a proliferation in litter throughout the county.
The new policy could have implications for An Taisce’s National Spring Clean – an annual month-long initiative that focuses on clean-ups of communities during April.
A spokesperson for An Taisce said: “We would share the concerns of local voluntary and community groups that these new rules place an unnecessary imposition on groups who are trying to be productive and to clean-up and take care of the environment in which they live.”
The spokesperson said the requirement for people involved in clean-ups to be trained in health and safety was “more red-tape” and a “disincentive” for volunteers. “It is difficult to understand what the logic of this policy is,” An Taisce spokesperson added.
The Galway City Clean-Up Group in a statement said it “condemns” the Council’s decision to introduce the new policy.
“We believe this will have an adverse effect on clean-ups in the county. It’s hard enough to get volunteers to come out and now with this unnecessary bureaucracy, we believe it will have an adverse effect on clean-ups,” it said. The group said it doesn’t have faith that the local authority has the resources to do what voluntary organisations are doing in communities and it called on the Council to reverse its decision.
Ten groups in Connemara have written to councillors expressing their concern and frustration at the policy. The groups include: Cumann Forbartha Choic Fharraige, Coiste Pobail Bhearna, Coiste na mBailte Slachtmhara na Forbacha, Comhlacht Forbartha an Spidéil, Coiste Pobail na Minna, Coiste Pobail na Tulaigh, Coiste Pobail Ros a Mhíl, Coiste na nBailte Slachtmhara na Ceathrún Rua, Coiste Pobail Chamuis and Coiste Pobail Rosmuc.
Many more groups have voiced their concern about the new regulations, which have negative wide-ranging implications for Tidy Towns committees.
Independent County Councillor Seósamh Ó Cualáin shares their concern and has called for the new policy to be scrapped.