Press Statement: 25th March 2014
Councillor Catherine Connolly said she welcomes unanimous support of City Councillors for her motion calling on Bord Pleanala to hold an oral hearing in Galway on the application currently before the board on the proposed extension of Galway Harbour.
She said it will be vitally important to have an oral hearing given the size and extent of the proposed development extending out into Galway Bay which is an area that has special protection as a cSAC, a SPA and on and/or adjacent to a number of Natura 2000 specially protected sites.
Indeed the proposed development will involve the reclamation of approximately 27hectares of area currently on the foreshore and on the seabed in a highly sensitive area with proposed dredging of a further 46 hectares.
Her motion calling for an Oral Hearing was passed at a special meeting of the City Council last Monday night. Moreover at this meeting, the senior planner went through a 62 page document prepared by the Planners in response to the Harbour Extension application giving the background and more importantly the response of the City Council to the proposal.
Councillor Connolly said the planners while highlighting that the City Development Plan amongst a number of other policy documents supports the extension of the harbour, they also highlighted a number of serious concerns including the viability of the business plan proposed, the viability of the proposed fishing pier, the effect of the proposed development not only on traffic but on the wear and tear of City roads and particularly given the confirmation at the meeting that Wolf Tone bridge is about to be subject to a weight restriction of 26 tonnes and the need for a significant dividend from the proposed development for the Common Good in terms of public space and/or a public building.
Councillor Connolly said she shares these concerns and while recognizing the restrictions on the current harbour, the proposed extension is of such a magnitude in a specially protected area that the scales of justice must be carefully weighed by an Bord Pleanala as to what type of development best promotes and benefits the common good. In this regard Councillor Connolly said she would have the most serious concerns in relation to the size and scale of the proposed development and the implications of same for flooding in the area particularly the Claddagh as well as the significant impact from a visual perspective from South Park and Nimmos Pier.
Moreover given that the Office of Public Works is currently examining the whole flood situation in Galway City it would seem premature to seek to proceed with a plan for the Development of the Harbour without the benefit of a report from the OPW which will not be available until the end of 2015.
It would also seem premature to go ahead with such a proposal given that the City Manager informed Councillors that new legislation is imminent which will involve the transfer of ownership of the Docklands to the Local Authority itself.
Further there is also absolutely no clarity on how the proposed development will be financed except that there will be no government funding notwithstanding that the Harbour Company is justifying the proposal as being one that is necessary for ‘imperative reasons of overriding public interest’
Councillor Connolly said she has also made a written submission to an Bord Pleanala requesting an Oral Hearing.