Saturday 23 February 2008

Locals contest rezoning of Spiddal woodland

Connemara community activists have urged Galway county councillors to review their rezoning of an area of woodland formerly owned by the late Lord Killanin on Spiddal demesne.

The rezoning, approved by Connemara councillors last year, will have "significant adverse impacts on the mature broadleaf woodland" and on the flora and fauna of the Owenboliska (Abhann Boluisce) river, according to independent consultants who conducted an environmental study for Galway County Council.

The material alteration to the draft local area plan for the Galway Gaeltacht was approved late last year by local authority representatives, following backing by Connemara councillors. However, the final Gaeltacht plan - including amendments - still has to be agreed and is listed for discussion at next Monday's local authority meeting.

The council had advised against the rezoning, and had committed to a study of the area, given that both Spiddal House and its "curtilage" are listed as protected structures.

Public access to part of the woodland had been permitted by previous owners, via a walkway along Abhann Boluisce, and the council recently constructed a footbridge across the river close to the shoreline which was facilitated by the current owner.

Lord Killanin's lands and former family home just west of Spiddal village have passed through several hands since their sale during the lifetime of the former International Olympic Committee president.

Michael Morris, the third Lord Killanin, died in 1999 at the age of 84 and was buried in Galway.

He had spent his childhood on Spiddal demesne. On his return to Ireland after military service in the second World War, he rebuilt the house he had inherited from his uncle.

Two of his sons still have homes in the area, and it is understood that planning approval had previously been granted for a house for another family member within the shoreline wood.

Comhairle Pobail an Spideil, the Spiddal community council, says it has no problem with one house being built in the woodland for the current owner's family, if this is the issue involved in the current rezoning.

However, Seán Ó Coistealbha, the council's spokesman, says it has appealed for retention of the zoning as amenity.

Donncha Ó hEallaithe, a Connemara community activist, supports taking this action and says that no material alteration should be approved prior to completion of the proposed county council study.

The current owner of the land was unavailable for comment.

The Irish Times

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