Schools and poor planning are to blame for much of Galway City’s traffic problems, according to An Taisce.
In its submission to the oral hearing for the proposed N6 Galway City Ring Road, An Taisce claimed that the historic positioning of primary, secondary and third level facilities in the centre of Galway is a major cause of traffic congestion.
An Taisce representative, Peter Butler, said that school traffic in the morning and afternoons has a disproportionately high impact on traffic in the city. Indeed, the Galway resident claims that without school traffic “there is not a traffic congestion problem in Galway”.
Mr Butler highlighted a number of other contributing factors to congestion in his submission including a lack of bus lanes and the lack of a year-round park and ride facility.
This is a preview only. For extensive coverage across four pages of the Ring Road oral hearing, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. Buy a digital edition of the paper here.
“These traffic congestion problems have come about from a history of doing nothing but waiting for a bypass to come along. This is not good planning. These problems should have been solved well ahead of time,” he said.
“The city has been allowed to develop in a way which has forced the need for these ring roads. The houses have been allowed to be built on one side of the river and the jobs on the other side. Now we end up with a crisis and another road is being seen as the solution.”
Mr Butler claimed that the situation of schools at city centre locations, and away from population centres, is the main cause of the traffic gridlock in Galway.
Referencing a section of the Galway Transport Strategy (GTS) he says that 35 per cent of the traffic at peak times is between home and education.
“Without the school traffic there is not a traffic congestion problem in Galway. That statement [from the GTS] has not been picked up upon and analysed enough,” he said.
Meanwhile, it was claimed at the oral hearing this week that it is “utterly unsustainable” to proceed with the Galway City Ring Road project in the next decade at a time when huge efforts are being made to reduce Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Chartered Engineer and sustainability campaigner Brendan Mulligan told the An Bord Pleanála oral hearing for the proposed N6 Ring Road that the development would cut through a 17.5km swathe of land – resulting the destruction, displacement, disturbance and fragmentation of vital natural habitats for thousands of species.
Speaking at the hearing module examining the ecology and hydrogeology elements of the project, Mr Mulligan said the construction of this road would be happening at a time when biodiversity loss was the “greatest environmental challenge facing humanity”.
“Yet biodiversity underpins the ecological functions that provide the many natural goods and services on which life, livelihoods and sustainable living depends,” Mr Mulligan told the hearing on Monday.
This was the last generation that had an opportunity to prevent the collapse of the planet’s biodiversity in the face of habitat destruction and climate change – something Mr Mulligan said was recognised by the declaration of a climate change and biodiversity emergency by the Dáil in May 2019.
The construction of the Ring Road would contradict that, he said.
(Picture shows a photomontage of how the proposed fifth bridge over the River Corrib would look.)
‘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.