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Beach bylaws set for dilution on foot of lobby

Beach bylaws that had the potential to ‘ban everything but swimming’ on County Galway’s beaches are to be reconsidered with the consultation of water sports enthusiasts.

At a meeting of the County Council last week, it was confirmed that over 1,000 submissions were received as part of a public consultation process on the proposed bylaws, which stated that various water sports would be prohibited “in close proximity to bathers”.

Campaigners voiced opposition to the regulations in November and Barra Nevin, leader of the recently formed ‘Zone Galway Beaches’ campaign group, said “Christmas had come early” for those seeking a more measured approach to the bylaws.

“We are delighted that all the officials and councillors have come together in a united approach and agreement,” said Mr Nevin, who is a community pharmacist in Roscam in Galway.

“There is now a sea change, where they want to consult with water users and stakeholders. Zoning should be looked at first, as it’s the number one safety thing they can do before beach bylaws are even considered,” he continued.

Zoning involves mapping out parts of the water which were for swimmers only, while providing a separate space for those taking part in other water sports such as sailing, surfing, canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding.

“The response to the campaign has been of historical proportions, the largest number of written submissions ever sent in to County Hall,” said Mr Nevin.

Bodies representing water sports across the spectrum – both local and national – as had Fáilte Ireland, all advocating zoning of Galway’s 24 beaches, he continued.

“We should never lose track in remembering the great asset we have in our water and its potential in promoting healthy living and tourism. Each beach is unique, whether it be on the River Shannon, an inland lake or all along the Wild Atlantic Way.

“That is why each beach must be looked at individually,” said Mr Nevin, who agreed with the need for bylaws that work in the interests of all water users.

Speaking after the Council meeting, Connemara area Councillor Eileen Mannion (FG) said the bylaws would go to the Council’s Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) for consideration in the context of submissions.

There would be an opportunity there to invite interested parties to attend and discuss their submissions further. Their proposals on the bylaws would then be sent to the Connemara and Loughrea Municipal Districts for consideration as the two MDs with beaches within their boundaries, before returning to the full Council.

“There has never been an intention to ban water sports and while there was concern about this wording, the same wording is used in other counties – including Mayo – without issue.

“We will await the outcome of the SPCs and the bylaws that come back to the MDs. As councillors, we have three options – to accept the bylaws, amend them or reject them,” said Cllr Mannion.

“I am hopeful we can find a solution that is satisfactory for everyone,” she added.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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