Friends of Merlin Woods and supporters of Save the Meadows of Merlin Park Galway were out in force on last week – with around 50 to 60 people turning out over two hours to protest against the proposed construction of a hospice in the meadow with further action planned in coming weeks.
In July, councillors voted in favour of including on the Draft City Development Plan a provision for the rezoning of seven acres of Recreational and Amenity lands on the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital to allow for the construction of a 26-bed hospice unit with the possibility of expanding to 50 in the future.
Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods said that the group are completely unopposed to the construction of a hospice – however, they believe that there are many more suitable alternatives to the proposed site.
“There are plenty of alternatives, including on the hospital campus,” said Caroline. “It’s also near Ardaun which is an area that is supposed to be developed.”
From 11am on Saturday morning, the campaigners surrounded the entrance of Merlin Park Hospital holding banners with slogans of “Killing the woods is killing us” and “Yes for a hospice within Merlin Hospital Campus”.
According to the group, the Merlin Woods was a key consideration in the decision to designate Galway the European Green Leaf Environmental Award in recognition of a strong environmental record and engagement of citizens in environmental awareness.
Ms Stanley believes that the proposed rezoning is going against all that the Green Leaf designation stood for.
Friends of Merlin Woods say that the area needs to be maintained to promote the positive use of recreational areas by those who enjoy various outdoor interests such as schools, walkers, cyclists, artists and anyone who wishes to create balance and awareness between people and their environment.
They also asserted that the reduction in any more RA zoned land would have a detrimental effect on physical and mental health and would likely increase stress and illness for people living in Galway.
“Merlin Park Woods with its meadowlands are the oldest, largest and most bio-diverse ancient limestone woodland in Galway city, equitable to the Burren,” said the group in a statement on the plans, adding that to build on the site “would be a major loss to the community, the City of Galway and at a national and international level.”
Previously, the group fought and won a battle to have a planned road through the woods and its meadows removed from the City Development Plan and they are intent on having similar success with this campaign.
The group will again take to the streets on Saturday with campaigners due to be out on Shop Street for the day with petitions in an effort to inform people of the plans for the woods – and why they oppose them.
“The idea is to get signatures and to raise awareness in the city – we want to give people the opportunity to ask questions,” said Caroline Stanley.
Schools and colleges in Galway advised to close for Storm Barra
Schools in Galway have begun informing parents that they will not open tomorrow, following advice from the Department of Education.
The Dept said this evening that schools, colleges and universities in areas where a Status Orange or Red warning apply for Storm Barra should not open.
A spokesperson said: “Met Éireann has advised that there is a strong possibility that the status of parts of these counties currently in Status Orange are likely to change and escalate to Status Red.
“Due to the significant nature of Storm Barra, as forecast by Met Éireann and to give sufficient notice to institutions of further and higher education, the department is advising that all universities, colleges and further education facilities covered by the Red Alert and Orange warning from Met Éireann should not open tomorrow, 7 December.
“All schools and third level institutions should keep up-to-date with the current weather warnings which are carried on all national and local news bulletins and in particular any change in the status warning for their area.”
Emergency accommodation for rough sleepers in Galway during Storm Barra
Arrangements have been made to provide emergency accommodation for rough sleepers ahead of Storm Barra hitting Galway in the morning.
Accommodation will be provided at locations including The Glenoaks in the Westside, the Fairgreen in the city centre and Osterley Lodge in Salthill (Contact 085 8009709 or 085 8009641).
The COPE Galway Day Centre will remain open all day Tuesday from 8.30am to closing.
Meanwhile, Galway City Council has warned that a number of roads may be closed in the morning ahead of high tide, including Salthill Prom.
Following ongoing meetings of the Inter-Agency Co-ordination group today and based on the latest information available, a number of precautionary measures have been put in place.
- Closure of Silverstrand Beach at 6pm Monday
- Closure of Ballyloughane Beach at midnight (Local Traffic only)
- Closure of Rosshill Road at 6am Tuesday
- Closure of Salthill Promenade at midnight:
- Blackrock Tower to Seapoint and onto Grattan Road. (Closure of Grattan Road may be required. Monitoring in place to decide.)
- Potential closure of roads along the Claddagh, Docks and Spanish Arch from 5am Tuesday
A spokesperson said: “There may be further closures throughout the city as required and the situation will be closely monitored and regular updates given. Motorists will experience delays as a result.”
The carparks at Toft Park and on the Promenade have been closed and all vehicle owners have been asked to move their vehicles from car parks and along the Prom.
Sand bags are now available at the following manned locations: the former Tourist Kiosk in Salthill (behind Seapoint); Claddagh Hall; Galway Fire Station; Spanish Arch; the Docks (beside the pedestrian crossing at St Nicholas Street).
“Anyone who avails of sandbags should retain them in their possession for use throughout the upcoming winter season. Please do not take any more sandbags than you need,” the Council spokesperson said.
“The main impacts will include strong winds, falling trees and potential flooding. High tide in Galway Bay will be at 6.45am Tuesday.
“Some trees may be compromised due to saturated soils at the moment, and with more rain forecast with Storm Barra some disruption due to falling trees/branches is likely. Heavy rain, coupled with falling leaves may block drains and gullies, leading to surface flooding. Galway City Council staff have been carrying out drainage maintenance across the city in advance of the storm to minimise potential flooding risks.
“Storm Barra will produce significant swell, high waves and sizeable storm surges. This will lead to wave overtopping, some coastal flooding and damage, especially along western and southern coasts,” the Council said.
Business owners and homeowners are advised to check their own drains and secure any loose objects within their property in advance of the warning taking effect.
“Galway City Council advises remaining indoors during the period of the warning and, as always, to avoid coastal areas. Parks and other wooded areas should also be avoided, due to the danger of falling trees. If absolutely essential to travel, please exercise extreme caution out and about especially on coastal roads and exposed shores.
“City Council staff will be on standby for clean-up following the passing of Storm Barra and the associated warning once it has been deemed safe to do so. Please note the associated clean-up which will commence on Wednesday morning may impact on traffic.”
Galway City Council Customer Services phone lines are available to deal with emergency calls on 091 536400. For the Galway County Council area, the phone number is 091 509069.
Galway Gardaí: ‘Stay at home during Storm Barra’
Gardaí in Galway have warned people to stay home tomorrow (Tuesday) as Met Éireann forecasted a ‘risk to life’ ahead of Storm Barra’s expected landfall tomorrow morning.
At a meeting of the City Joint Policing Committee (JPC), Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said the City Council was preparing for the ‘high probability’ of coastal flooding.
A combination of tomorrow’s high tides with the forecast high winds and heavy rainfall would likely lead to a flooding event, he said.
Chief Superintendent Tom Curley said the best advice available was to stay at home but refused to comment on school closures – advising that was a matter for the Department of Education.
Mr McGrath said a number of meetings between local and national agencies had already taken place, with more set to run throughout the day as preparations got underway for this winter’s first severe weather event.
“High tide is at 6.45am tomorrow morning and at 7.20pm tomorrow evening. There is currently a Red Marine Warning in place for the sea area that includes Galway and an Orange Storm Warning for Storm Barra for 6am Tuesday morning to 6am on Wednesday morning,” said Mr McGrath, adding that it was possible this storm warning could be raised to Red later today.
With high tide at 5.45 metres and a forecast storm surge of 1.05m, the risk of flooding was significant. In addition, winds were currently forecast to be South-West to West, said Mr McGrath, conducive to a flooding event in the city.
“It is potentially problematic . . . the hope would be that the storm surge doesn’t happen at the same time as high tide,” he added.
The flood protection barrier had been installed at Spanish Arch over the weekend and storm gullies had been cleaned. Sandbags were to be distributed throughout the day, said Mr McGrath.
Council staff would be on duty throughout the weather event and Gardaí would be operating rolling road closures from early morning. Carparks in Salthill were closed today, while tow trucks were on standby to remove any vehicles not moved by their owners before the high-risk period.
Chief Supt Curley said it was imperative people stayed home where possible.
The best way to say safe was to “leave the bicycle or the car in the driveway” from early tomorrow morning, and to stay indoors until the worst of the storm had passed.
Met Éireann has warned of potential for flooding in the West, with Storm Barra bringing “severe or damaging gusts” of up to 130km/h.
A Status Orange wind warning has been issued for Galway, Clare, Limerick, Kerry and Cork from 6am Tuesday to 6am Wednesday, with southerly winds, later becoming northwesterly, with mean speeds of 65 to 80km/h and gusts of up to 130km/h possibly higher in coastal areas.
“High waves, high tides, heavy rain and storm surge will lead to wave overtopping and a significant possibility of coastal flooding. Disruption to power and travel are likely,” Met Éireann said.