Residents up in arms after coaches hijack former green space

The new coach park in Kinvara. © Aerial Video Photo Production.

Residents of Kinvara are up in arms over the apparent hijacking of a green space by coaches – an area which had been removed as part of the work on the new sewage treatment plant.

So far 600 people have signed a petition demanding that the small area of grass be reinstated in order to prevent it from becoming an ugly unofficial car and coach park permanently.

For the last six weeks anything up to six coaches are parking in the area at the one time. The village has become a popular pit stop for tour groups, with an estimated 50 coaches a day pulling in to use toilets and wander around. Kinvara has no public toilets or dedicated coach park.

Those leading the ‘Save Kinvara Green’ campaign insist this amenity is a key part of the picturesque pier used by Galway families and tourists to have a picnic or hold stalls during the annual Cruinniu na mBád festival.

They understood the area would be temporarily tarred over to facilitate the installation of holding tanks for the new sewage treatment facility and that it would be left for up to nine months in its current state.

“Residents have been told that while it is within the contract of Coffey Construction to reinstate the green, plans are afoot to change the layout in order to facilitate additional parking facilities for coaches and cars,” according to one resident who has joined the campaign.

“Local residents are very distressed by this development and claim that the proper planning process has been ignored. The quay in Kinvara is an area of great beauty and rustic charm. Few towns in Ireland can boast such a beautiful setting.

“Kinvara Pier is a protected structure under the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and any proposal to alter its surrounds have to be scrutinised with care by both the planning authority and the community to ensure that the character of the area is not damaged.”

Local resident and Galway County Councillor Joe Byrne said he was told verbally last May by a senior council engineer that the green would be reinstated. However, when he was given a copy of the contract drawings by the end of June he could see there was no such plan to return the amenity as it was.

He understands that one option under consideration is to remove the green area in the middle but widen the parkland beside the quay.

“What’s there at present nobody wants – I certainly don’t, but that’s what in the contract. I wouldn’t be happy with that – there’s no parking control in place at all,” he stated.

“I was born on the quay myself – the green area in the middle is part of the quay’s heritage but it does cause a problem with traffic movement. There are pros and cons to each suggestion. I’m very much in discussion mode with everyone to come up with a solution which should have been addressed in a traffic management study that I’ve been calling on for a long time.

“One thing that is for sure is the quay is never going to a solution to parking in Kinvara – it’s an amenity area – but there should be a provision that if a coach does come into the quay area it should be able to get out.

“Commercial business who pay their rates are entitled to facilities that allow coaches to pull up.”

Campaigners say they acknowledge there is a need for a bus and coach park in the village with the increase in tourists on the Wild Atlantic Way.

But they argue that parking needs to be planned within a whole village context in a traffic management plan with public consultation.

“Traffic problems will not be solved by changing the attractiveness of the quay area to facilitate two-way car, camper van, minibuses and larger coach traffic and a few more parking bays.

“The original green acted like a roundabout or traffic island and made traffic slow down ensuring safety. It also limited parking and prevented buses from double-parking for drop-offs as has been witnessed in recent weeks,” said the spokesperson.

“There is a very real worry that leaving the pier in its current state for up to nine months is creating a precedent that the pier area is suitable for parking buses and cars. As a community, the residents feel that they are being put under pressure to forget about the original green space and to consider other layouts.

“We’re calling on Galway County Council to engage with the locals about this critical change to the aesthetics of our village.”

Director of Water Services and Environment at Galway County Council, Jim Cullen, said the Council had received several enquiries about the public green and had responded to them all.

“The situation is that the green space was needed temporarily as part of the works associated with the Kinvara Sewerage Scheme which is ongoing at the moment. When the scheme is finished the green area will be restored,” he stated.

The Director of Services for Roads, Liam Gavin, also insisted the green would be returned.

“There are all sorts of rumours going around about what’s to happen. I think people may be mixing up the traffic management plan which is planned for next year when the green may be considered in a different context. But that’s a separate issue for another day.

A public meeting on the issue will be held on Wednesday, August 17 at 8pm in St Joseph’s Primary School Hall.

All those interested are invited to attend.