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Europe says it’s not to blame for flooding crisis

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Emergency works – even in priority habitats – can be pursued when people and homes are at risk of flooding, according to the European environment officials.

Planned schemes in designated areas to alleviate flooding risk should be pursued through the IROPI (Imperative Reasons for Overriding Public Interest) mechanism in the birds and habitats directive – which has granted permission to all but one project in two decades.

The meeting between an Irish delegation of Irish MEPs, TDs and farming representatives with four top officials in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment has injected a fresh sense of confidence in local politicians to solve the flooding problem across the country, claimed Roscommon–South Leitrim TD and Glinsk resident Michael Fitzmaurice.

The Irish authorities have adopted an overly cautious approach when it comes to interpreting the European legislation – which has led to the devastating floods due to the lack of remedial work.

“What we’ve been told in Europe and what we’re told here are two different stories to be quiet honest,” he insisted.

“I’m confident that whoever is in government, if they’ve the drive to do it, will be able to do it – straight up, no ifs, buts about it.”

The leader of the turfcutters, who has been at loggerheads with the authorities over a ban on cutting turf in designated bogs, said he was very blunt with the officials the delegation met.

“I was talking about turloughs and how we in put in a drain from one to another in Roscommon to save a house in a SAC (Special Area of Conservation). They as much as said ‘what about’ – for the simple reason we weren’t draining the turlough dry, we weren’t going to the middle of the turlough, we were relieving the excess water at the edges,” he explained.

“They made it very clear – in an emergency you have to do whatever works necessary, you drive on; if you’re doing a plan for the area, yes go through an IROPI and in 20 years just one project has been turned down across Europe.”

The TD and former Galway County Councillor presented the Europeans with a document circulated from the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to local authorities in 2011 which stated that “every effort should be made to avoid recourse to IROPI as planners should avoid the IROPI process as this is a legally difficult, expensive, lengthy and complex process, with no guarantee of a successful outcome and with a serious risk of legal challenges”.

He said they totally rejected that official assessment and pointed out that many countries, including the UK, had successfully negotiated the process.

“They brought up the Outer City Bypass and said if Galway had gone down the IROPI process it would have been completed by now,” Deputy Fitzmaurice stated.

The next step being pursued by the delegation is to bring over the four officials to face the Oireachtas environment committee with executives from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and the Office of Public Works (OPW) and bring clarity to the flooding crisis – hopefully before the next general election is called.

“That way everyone in Ireland can hear in black and white what’s been said. I know all too well everytime you put a shovel in the ground they try and stop you.”

The Commission also stated that the EU Solidarity fund could be applied for and that Regional Funds could also be used to alleviate or mitigate the risk of flooding.

CITY TRIBUNE

Plan for ‘world-class’ campus with potential for 10,000 jobs at Galway Airport

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From this week’s Galway CIty Tribune – A proposal to transform the former Galway Airport into a ‘world-class’ business and technology campus has been drawn up by Galway County Council – with the potential to create up to 10,000 jobs.

The plan, which was compiled as part of the Draft County Development Plan, proposes a multi-million-euro investment in the 115-acre site owned jointly by the County and City Councils.

According to the vision document, the airport site at Carnmore could become a key economic driver that would “attract and secure long-term investment in Galway and the western region, and underpin the development of the Galway Metropolitan Area”.

Among the sectors identified as potential occupants are renewable energy, biodiversity, food science and logistics.

Some of the structures included for are a ‘landmark building’; commercial units; park amenity and recreation space; a renewable energy park; and a multi-purpose leisure facility.

A contemporary development with the potential to accommodate emerging industries is promised, with projected employment numbers ranging between 3,500 to 10,000 over time.

However, county councillors raised concerns at a meeting this week that the proposal they had seen in the Development Plan had been ‘sitting on a shelf’ since last March – and they still hadn’t seen what was dubbed ‘the masterplan’ for the airport site.

Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) told the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District meeting that the recent news that Oranmore was among the locations being looked at by multinational tech giant, Intel, put fresh focus on the future of the airport.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Work expected to start on Galway City cycleways next summer

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The first six projects in the city’s major new cycle network are expected to begin construction by next June.

In an update on developments that are in train to improve the lot of cyclists, councillors at this week’s local authority meeting were told that the Martin Roundabout (near the Galway Clinic) would next be changed to a junction and the BusConnects, involving priority bus lanes from Moneenageisha to University Hospital Galway, were advancing.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has approved a raised cycle lane north of Railway Bridge on Doughiska Road South and for a shared street south of the bridge.

Eglinton Canal will turn into a shared cycle and pedestrian path. Four weeks of public consultation on both of these is set to begin in October, with the projects set to go to detailed design and tender following final NTA approval.

Ballybane, Castlepark and Bóthar Stiofáin Roads will also go to public consultation for “raised adjacent cycle schemes” a month after that.

The six projects are expected to begin construction by the end of June or early July next year.

Millars Lane is currently in preliminary design stage after clearing works were carried out last November.

Options are being examined and parking survey prepared for Threadneedle, Bishop O’Donnell, Dr Mannix, Devon Park, Salthill Road Upper and Lower Roads with input and designs from the Parkmore Strategic Framework awaited for the Monivea and Doughiska North Roads.

Active Travel Schemes had been approved in principle by the NTA for Ballyloughane and Clybaun South Roads, involving pedestrian crossings, traffic calming, signalisation of junctions and the integration of safe school routes.

Cllr John Connolly (FF) noted that the first quarter of 2021 was when some of these projects were to go to construction, according to a previous timetable.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Pamela’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Racecourse Park and Ride a non-runner for Christmas in Galway

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The lack of a park and ride service this Christmas will drive shoppers out of town at a time when businesses are struggling to recover from months in lockdown, the Mayor has warned.

This is after it was revealed that the City Council has failed to secure an alternative location for the service – with its usual base at Galway Racecourse out of action due to the ongoing vaccination programme.

The service, which had previously operated for the three-week period in the run up to Christmas, enabled motorists to park their cars in Ballybrit and take a return trip by bus to town at a cost of just €2 – taking hundreds of cars out of the city centre.

The Mayor, Cllr Colette Connolly, said it was ‘completely ludicrous’ that it would not be in operation this year, in a city that was already gridlocked with car traffic.

“I think that it is a retrograde step not to proceed with the Christmas Park and Ride because we know what will happen – we’ve seen before what happens at the Corrib Centre around Christmas where traffic backs up and people get stuck in the car park,” said the Mayor.

This would result in shoppers from outside the city avoiding coming in, while others would go to other towns and cities to avoid traffic misery.

“They will go to Limerick or to Dublin, which is only two-and-a-half hours away. They will go to Athlone, because they may as well go there, rather than spend two hours sitting in traffic on Lough Atalia,” added the Independent councillor.

In Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath’s report to councillors, it is stated that “it is looking unlikely that Galway City Council will be able to run the Christmas Park and Ride in 2021”.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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