BUSINESS LEADERS in Galway have urged Minister for the Environment John Gormley to intervene following a decision by An Bord Pleanála to grant permission for just half of a proposed city bypass.
Galway Chamber of Commerce wants the Minister to upgrade the planned 21km N6 bypass to "critical infrastructure" after permission was granted only for the section on the east of the river Corrib.
The board refused permission for the approximately 10km on the west of the river as it would have an adverse effect on Thonabrucky Bog, which is listed as a priority habitat under the EU habitats directive.
Permission has been given for a section of more than 11km from Garraun and Gortatleva in the east, but was refused for the part between Gortatleva and An Baile Nua, including a connection to the western distributor road.
The decision to refuse permission west of the river has been welcomed by An Taisce, but a spokesperson was critical of An Bord Pleanála for permitting the road on the east side.
Former mayor of Galway, Green councillor Niall Ó Brolcháin, said he was not surprised by the decision. "It was always going to be impractical to steamroll through a sensitive environmental area. The bypass plans were a one-dimensional approach to the city's traffic problem," he said.
The ruling has caused consternation in the city's business community.
"It is a bizarre situation that An Bord Pleanála accepts the need for this bypass, but despite exhaustive public consultations and over two years of deliberations, has reservations about the route through a particular area and the impact on the environment therein," said chamber CEO Michael Coyle.
"The need for the bypass is established, the need for the new bridge over the Corrib is established. We now call on Minister Gormley to get involved and send it back to An Bord Pleanála, designated as a piece of 'critical infrastructure' because half a bypass is no good."
Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Éamon Ó Cuív said the decision was "regrettable" but he urged that work begin as soon as possible on the stretch east of the river and that the National Roads Authority and Galway city and county councils meet to find an alternative route west of the Corrib.