A major €8.5 million road widening scheme in North Galway is to commence at the end of February – but affected land owners are still in the dark as to the amount of compensation they will be receiving.
It could effectively mean that works will commence on the Abbeyknockmoy to Annagh Hill scheme along the N63 without land owners receiving a cent in compensation – it is causing uproar locally.
Galway County Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland have been urged to engage with the 74 affected property owners – some of whom will have farm sheds removed – as a matter of urgency.
Works on the 3.2 kilometre stretch, which involves a road widening process along with the provision of a cycle lane, is due to begin at the end of next month but farmers and householders along the route are furious over the lack of contact.
Last September the compulsory purchase orders for the acquisition of the lands necessary for the road scheme were approved and this week the successful contractors will be appointed.
But local Cllr Pete Roche told a meeting of Tuam Municipal Council that it was unacceptable that property owners were being ignored in this whole process.
“They don’t know how far the fencing will go into their property and, more importantly, they haven’t a clue what they will receive in compensation. They are being treated very shabbily and it is not right.
“Following on from the CPO process, they no longer own the property that has been acquired so the road widening scheme could commence and they cannot do a thing about it,” Cllr Roche explained.
Last autumn a compulsory purchase order for the acquisition of lands on the Abbeyknockmoy to Annagh Hill road scheme was given the go ahead following a public consultation.
An Bord Pleanála confirmed the CPO after an application submitted by Galway County Council for the on-line improvement of the N63. At the time, a total of 10 parties recorded their objection to the plan.
The site was inspected in early June and this was followed by a two-day oral hearing. An Bord Pleanála officials held a meeting at the end of August when they considered objections to the CPO along with the inspectors report following the oral hearing in June and the general submissions on file.
It was then decided to confirm the CPO. However, the issue of compensation has not been discussed with the vast majority of land owners affected.
The board cited a number of reasons including the present substandard nature of the existing road in relation to the alignment as well as drainage and flooding issues.
Director of Services Michael Timmins told the meeting that the tenders had been assessed and evaluated and the successful contractor would be notified. He expected works to commence on the project by mid to late February.
‘Give even one big GAA game to Ballinasloe’
It’s the most centrally located ground in the country but Ballinasloe’s Duggan Park won’t host a single inter-county match this year – much to the annoyance of one local councillor who wants the GAA to allocate at least one big game to the venue.
Cllr Michael Connolly told a meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council that the ground is entitled to host major football and hurling fixtures – even though all but one of the Galway footballers’ home league games are assigned to Pearse Stadium with the other one in Tuam.
“If they gave us one match in Duggan Park, it would be something,” he said. “But at the moment, it seems as if it is being ignored.”
The Moylough councillor described it as the most accessible ground in the country and a venue in which players and supporters like to travel to – unlike, he suggested, Pearse Stadium.
He said that it was “a hateful venue” and few GAA supporters relished the prospect of travelling to the “far side of the city” to watch a football or hurling match.
A recent meeting in Gullane’s Hotel to discuss Duggan Park was attended by Deputy Denis Naughton, Senator Aisling Dolan, Cllr Evelyn Parsons and Cllr Declan Kelly among others.
But the Duggan Park Committee then issued a statement saying that the ground is owned by Galway GAA and any use of the facility needed to be authorised – and no authorisation was given to the meeting organiser, former Mayor of Ballinasloe Joe Kelly, for this purpose.
Mr Kelly has been a staunch campaigner for the redevelopment of Duggan Park and has called on the local authority to row in behind this initiative.
They went on to say that there is a plan in place for the development of Duggan Park which is multiple staged which started with the new dressing rooms, flood lights and a new entrance to the venue.
Planning permission is in place for this development and that €500,000 has already been spent in the Duggan Park over the past number of years carrying out these projects.
The work in the ground, they say, is done to an excellent standard by local contractors with the support of the previous Town Council for grants and sports capital grants.
Former tourism magnet officially on register of derelict sites
The fire-ravaged hotel that was once one of the most popular in the county is now officially considered a derelict site – and that has led a local councillor to call for it to be either redeveloped or levelled.
Portumna’s Shannon Oaks Hotel, for so long popular with anglers and golfers in particular, has been boarded up for more than a decade since it was destroyed by fire.
Local councillor, Jimmy McClearn, has called on the owners to reopen or sell the property – adding that it should either be levelled or redeveloped.
“We are a tourist town and we need a hotel. The last thing we want is for a hotel to be shut up,” he said.
“It is a fine facility and on an extensive site so there is no reason why it should be boarded up,” he added.
The Shannon Oaks saga has gone on for the past twelve years – but now the owners, the multi-millionaire Comer brothers, will be forced to pay a derelict site levy if they do not reopen or redevelop.
That amounts to a seven per cent levy based on the market value of the property, which is worth around €1 million even in its derelict state.
The Shannon Oaks was ravaged by fire in September 2011 and four years later, the site was acquired by the Comer Group who, at the time, gave an undertaking that it would be reopened.
Around two years ago, planning permission was granted by Galway County Council to Barry Comer of the Comer Group to renovate the hotel by providing 60 new bedrooms along with 40 apartments to the rear of the structure.
However, there has been little or no movement on the site since then and now the owners are being again asked to give some indication as to when the hotel will be rebuilt.
It is considered an integral part of the tourism industry for the town and that is why pressure is mounting on the owners to rebuild the hotel.
Cllr McClearn said that all he is asking for is the owners to develop the site and provide a hotel there. “It’s not much to ask in a tourist town,” he added.
More than €200,000 worth of cannabis seized in East Galway
More than €200,000 worth of cannabis was seized in during two separate search operations in East Galway on Saturday.
Gardai from the Divisional Drugs Unit conducted a search at a residence in Aughrim and seized cannabis plants with an estimated street value of €146,000 and €20,000 worth of cannabis herb which will now be sent for analysis.
Two men (both in their 30s) were arrested at the scene in connection with the investigation and are currently detained at Galway Garda station under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act, 1996. Both men remain in custody.
A separate search was carried out at a residence in Ballinasloe yesterday afternoon and cannabis herb with an estimated street value of €35,000 was seized. Cannabis jellies and €7,510 in cash were also seized.
A man in his 40s was arrested and later released without charge and a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.