There is a real danger that nobody will build a new house in Connemara again after another 2,300 acres in the region was designated a Special Area of Conservation.
This means that these lands cannot be touched from a development point of view – underlining claims that Connemara will become “a no go area” for those who want to live there.
The designation has also impacted negatively on the much needed upgrade of the road from Maam Cross to Clifden which locals say is having an adverse impact on tourism in the region.
Oughterard’s Cllr Tom Welby says that more than 70% of Connemara is designated a Special Area of Conservation meaning that there are no developments allowed.
“Earlier this month Galway County Council were informed that 14 sites in Connemara had been designated as Special Areas of Conservation. Once they are identified, they cannot be touched.
“They have the full protection of an SAC. It limits a huge amount of things that the owners can do with it. But the added problem is than any lands within twelve or fifteen kilometres of an SAC are also impacted,” Cllr Welby explained.
Concerns were also expressed at a public meeting in Maam Cross last week about risks that could arise from short term measures to improve the N59 road from Oughterard to Maam Cross.
Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív said an overlay or surface job would lead to increased speeds on a road that is too narrow as it is.
Deputy Noel Grealish was among those who feared that the National Parks and Wildlife Service were totally against the present upgrading plan.
Around 600 people have signed a petition calling on An Bord Pleanala to grant permission for a full upgrade of the road.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service came in for stinging criticism at the public meeting about the N59 organised by Sinn Fein in Maam Cross. Even with planning permission, the Oughterard to Maam Cross upgrade plan is stalled for over two years because the Wildlife Service does not agree with the work methods proposed.
Meanwhile, Cllr Welby said that areas in Cong, Claddaghduff, Renvyle and Carna were impacted by the new designations which means that these lands cannot be built upon. The owners cannot plant a tree or open a drain without permission, he added.
“There are around 20 or 30 restrictions and the land owners have to go before the Minister for the Environment before they can touch their own lands”, Cllr Welby added.
He also referred to the fact that 260 acres of land in Kiltartan in South Galway had also been designated a Special Area of Conservation simply because it flooded last winter.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service designates lands under the European Union’s Habitats Directive in a bid to protect natural habitats, plants and wildlife. Cllr Welby argues that land designations have recently led to the refusal of the important N59 upgrade scheme – and government intervention is needed.
Galway City Council to ‘review’ Kirwan junction
Councillors are demanding proof that the €5 million spent to transform Kirwan Roundabout into a signalised junction was money well spent – blasting the new junction as having created long delays and worsening rat-running.
A meeting of the local authority last week heard that while there was a general acceptance there would be ‘teething problems’ with the traffic-light junction after it became operational in July, ongoing issues were continuing to draw the ire of road users and local residents.
Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind) said he was one of five councillors on the previous Council to initially vote against the removal of the roundabout, based on fears that it would increase traffic through local residential areas – a fear that had been realised.
“What changes have been needed to be done since it went live,” asked the former Mayor, indicating that there had been little improvement.
Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) said he understood that enhancement works were being done, but more were required.
“A lot of drivers are avoiding it and its driving traffic through the likes of Terryland Business Park. The Tuam Road is now gridlocked,” he said, calling on the Council to do a “PR exercise” to encourage drivers back to Kirwan.
Cllr Clodagh Higgins (FG) said the junction continued to confuse people and suggested that “overhead hanging signs” would be of assistance.
Green Party Councillor Niall Murphy said when the roundabout was slated for removal, it was promised that delays would be reduced by 25% and rat-running by 90% – but as yet, no evidence had been provided to show this.
“We need to put some science on this.
“The rat-running has moved to Dyke Road and there are some sections of that road where there are no footpaths, so it is quite dangerous for pedestrians,” said Cllr Murphy.
Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the meeting he believed there was a silent majority that were satisfied with the new junction.
He said that the junction’s ‘go live’ date was July 19, which coincided with the reopening of many parts of society that had been in lockdown due to Covid, and that had contributed to additional traffic.
“The first two objectives were to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety, and those objectives have been achieved.
“There will be a post project review – that is something that we always do and I would be happy to bring that back to Council for its consideration,” said Mr Finn.
Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath confirmed that review was set to get underway.
“It will go through the various elements and if issues arise following the review, they will be addressed,” he said.
Thieves target cars as owners unload shopping bags
Galway shoppers have been advised by Gardaí not to leave their vehicles unlocked or unattended as they bring their shopping into their homes.
This follows reports in the Newcastle area of opportunist thieves ‘striking’ as the shopping bags were being moved into houses.
One resident told the Galway City Tribune that the thieves waited until the person had taken a bag of shopping from their cars to bring into their home.
“This gives the thieves a minute or two to have a quick look in the car – what they seem to be looking for are purses, bags or wallets that are left behind in the car,” the resident stated.
He added that some of local residents had notices two ‘youngish lads’ – possibly in their late teens or early 20s – hanging around the Newcastle Park Road area over the past week or two.
“I just think that people need to be on their guard for this kind of opportunist theft. They just wait until the driver goes inside the house with the shopping and before they come back out, they do a quick search of the car,” he said.
Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that opportunist thieves would always be ‘on the look out for a handy theft’.
“What I would advise is that either have someone to keep an eye on the car when the shopping is being removed – or else lock the car each time, and don’t leave any cash or valuables in the vehicle.
“It might be an inconvenience to lock the car each time you go back into the house, but it is still far better than having something stolen from your vehicle,” said Sgt Walsh.
He also urged, that as a matter of routine, no one should leave any valuables in their cars when they parked them up.
“Even the coins that some people keep in car pockets for parking or other small payments can attract thieves. Never leave anything of value in your vehicles,” he said.
Boil water notice issued for Barna area
A boil water notice has been issued for the Barna area for health protection purposes
The areas affected are Barna Village, Truskey West and Truskey East, Barr Aille, Fermoyle, Ballard and along the Connemara Coast Road as far as Furbo, and on the Barna/Galway Road as far as Silverstrand.
The notice has been put in place due to issues with disinfection of the water at Tonabruckey Reservoir.
The notice affects approximately 2,300 people supplied by the Barna section of the Galway City West Public Water Supply area.
Customers in the area served by Tonabrucky Reservoir will notice increased levels of chlorine in their water supply in the coming days as we work to resolve the issue.
Vulnerable customers who have registered with Irish Water will receive direct communication on this Boil Water Notice.
Irish water, the City Council and the HSE will monitor the supply and will lift the notice when it is safe to do so.
In line with HSE Covid-19 advice and the requirement for frequent hand washing, Irish Water advises that the water remains suitable for this purpose and boiling the water is not required.