The final part of the jigsaw for the Galway Harbour Company in the protracted planning process for a €126 million port extension will be submitted this month.
Consultants are to lodge details of land that it is proposing as compensation for the EU habitat site being lost to the development, which is a core requirement of an IROPI application, where projects in highly sensitive areas can be given the green light for “Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest” – the first ever considered in the country.
The compensatory land has to be roughly the same size as that being lost to the extension – 67 acres – and be as near as possible to the port. The submission will detail a management plan to ensure it complies with the European environmental designation.
It will take An Bord Pleanála some months to decide on this last element. It will then submit its report on the entire project – either recommending or rejecting it – to the minister of the day who has the final say.
Barring any further delays, that decision could be handed down within a year. If they get the thumbs up, the first phase – where the current port is moved to a newly-created extension to the sea, opening up the inner port for a new urban quarter – could be open for business by 2023.
It came as a blow to the Galway Harbour Company that Project Ireland 2040 did not include the harbour extension, only the rejuvenation of the inner dock area, which has been named a priority urban development zone.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it could be a key part of the solution to Galway’s housing crisis.
Éamon Bradshaw, Planning and Development Project Director, said the two projects were totally interdependent.
“If you don’t develop the outer port, you can’t develop the inner port. Where would all the port infrastructure go? It’s very disappointing we didn’t even get a mention. We were hoping for an acknowledgement that this is an essential and major development for Galway City.”
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.