Yesterday in the Seanad, I raised the very disappointing decision by An Bord Pleanála on the Galway City Ring Road.
I am a great believer in process and allowing processes to run their course. It was a great disappointment that last Friday in Galway, while at a very positive event with Genesys opening its new office at Bonham Quay in the heart of the city, word began to filter through that An Bord Pleanála had decided not to defend the legal action being taken against the Galway city ring road. There are questions on a range of issues here, but particularly our planning laws and An Bord Pleanála itself.
As Senators will have read in the newspapers, and this is hard to believe, the board admitted in its letter that it was not aware at its final meeting that a new climate action plan 2021 had been adopted four days previously on 4 November 2021. How it could not be aware is one thing that is hard to fathom and believe. The fact that a mistake or oversight, if that is what it was, by An Bord Pleanála could – but hopefully will not – scupper a project that has been worked on for years in Galway is another matter.
This is only the latest incarnation of the road project. Work commenced on the original project as far back as 1999. Therefore, we are being left behind other cities like Cork, Limerick and Dublin where both road infrastructure and other infrastructure is powering ahead or has at least seen adequate development.
The original bypass project was a road project only. This incarnation of the Galway city ring road was part of the Galway transportation strategy. A power of work had been done by the city and county councils combined with the democratic support of the local authorities and council members to progress this project as part of the transportation strategy.
Only in the last number of weeks, the cross-city bus link project has gone to planning. We see work going ahead on the new pedestrian cycle bridge at the salmon weir and other projects that are planned within the city. We have also seen improvements in other areas and plans for a new greenway for Moycullen that will aid and reduce the pressure on the city. However, we are still in limbo in terms of the next stages. Thankfully, the county council on behalf of the city council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland stated that it is confident that the issues arising can be resolved and, as a result, intends to continue to progress the delivery of the Galway city ring road.
The people of Galway cannot be treated in this manner. Whether it was an oversight or a mistake by An Bord Pleanála, I hope it this does not scupper a vital project for Galway city. I have said before that we need a debate on the whole area of planning. The Government is looking at its planning laws but we have a situation where we cannot allow planning and decisions to be drawn out year after year and, indeed, for decades when it comes to infrastructure in Galway city. Galway deserves better, and we need better.