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Athenry development plan ‘lacks real ambition’

A Galway County Council plan for the development of Athenry has been slammed as “unambitious” and “shortsighted”. Local Councillor Shelly Herterich Quinn (FF) said the Athenry Area Plan, for which a Chief Executive’s Report is currently under consideration by councillors, failed to capitalise on the arrival 1,000 jobs with Dexcom and would hinder rather than support development.

“If you compare the previous plan to this one, the footprint of the plan has been reduced to exclude consideration of a number of private land banks to the south of the railway. This is very much a backward step for a growing and developing town,” said the Fianna Fáil councillor.

This, she believed, was a retrograde step that would drive development away from transport infrastructure and other amenities.

“Not only does this plan set out to increase the population north of the railway line – away from all the amenities like the schools, shops and service industries – but it has removed any possibility to build quality homes on land only 700m from these services south of the railway.

“The increase in rail services and improvements to the rail network will certainly have an impact locally on residents and therefore it makes the case to look towards land south of the railway line for housing development,” said Cllr Herterich Quinn.

In addition to the jobs that Dexcom would bring, there would be countless spin off industries created out of an industry of that scale, she said, and housing needed to be the focus of any future planning for Athenry.

“Across Athenry, there is a clear and demonstrated appetite to expand both he availability and quality of housing provision. I have numerous representations and Athenry residents are ambitious for our town.

“The Draft Local Area Plan 2023-2029 should endeavour to both meet and exceed this ambition by zoning high-quality, accessible land that can facilitate housing development and support the economic prosperity of Athenry,” said Cllr Herterich Quinn.

Councillors would fix a date to consider the Chief Executive of Galway County Council’s report on the draft plan at their Municipal District meeting next week, she said, and it would be imperative to stress the need for greater ambition.

Cllr Herterich Quinn also said the plan that would eventually be adopted by councillors needed to be implemented, pointing out that the extension of the Athenry Relief Road had been on the back burner for far too long despite its inclusion in previous area plans.

This was creating untold problems, she said, and works to upgrade the sewerage network in the town which commenced recently had brought them into sharp focus, with the closure of the Caheroyn to Monivea Road driving heavy traffic up backroads and boreens.

“The main reason for this issue is because the North Relief Road has not been progressed in previous plans and it has to be progressed in this new plan,” said Cllr Herterich Quinn.

It would be the job of all councillors elected at the next election in June 2024 to ensure that the objectives of the new area plan are met, she said.

Cllr Herterich Quinn was critical of the Chief Executive’s report which she said sought to water down a commitment to deliver the relief road.

“The Chief Executive wants to take out the language that says the road will be completed within the timeframe of the plan and that is not acceptable,” she added.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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