Green Party councillor Alastair McKinstry has said that construction along the R336 Coast Road should start to be moved away from the old road and towards the location of a new road – in preparation for rising sea levels.
However, any decision on the future of the R336 between Barna and Ros a’ Mhíl would have to be put on hold until a decision is made over the Galway City Ring Road.
That’s what Connemara local area councillors were told at their first local area meeting of the new Council term.
Galway County Council’s Director of Services for Roads, Jim Cullen, said a freeze on planning had been lifted earlier this year which allowed landowners in the area to apply for planning permission to build.
Almost exactly five years ago, prior to the 2014 local rlections, county councillors voted in favour of the so-called “brown route” to replace the existing R336 – against the advice of Council officials, who said that it was unlikely to ever get planning permission as the route cut through areas designated as environmentally sensitive.
As a consequence of the route being approved by councillors, a 2km-wide corridor between Galway City and Ros a Mhíl had a freeze placed on any planning permission applications, causing uproar amongst local landowners.
The planning and scoping works completed in advance of this decision cost €3 million, but Mr Cullen said those studies were now out of date and said no plans would be made for the road in advance of An Bord Pleanála’s decision on the GCRR, which he said was due to go to public hearing later this year.
Cllr McKinstry said that rising sea levels would mean that any building that was constructed along the route would be in danger of destruction within the next century.
“We do need to see that any further development along the coast is moved inland so that it is not lost in the next century.
“We know that there will be a two-metre sea rise over the next century, with worsening storm surges,” he said.
Mr Cullen agreed that action needed to be taken and said this would form part of the County Council’s Climate Change Action Plans which were in preparation.
Of the R336, Mr Cullen said: “There’s hardly a road that has as many weaknesses It has a footpath that must be one of the longest footpaths in Europe.”
Any future decision on the road would also be influenced by the progress of the Moycullen Bypass and while a lot had gone into planning a new road since 2009, the Council was “effectively back to square one”.
Cllr Eileen Mannion (FG) criticised the repeated raising of the R336 at meetings of Connemara Municipal District and said both she and her fellow councillors had been informed on several occasions already that nothing could happen with the R336 until a decision on the Ring Road was forthcoming.