Saturday 14 June 2008

Call for action on 'landing strip' road

Council urged to get tough over illegal land work

A City Councillor has called on planning officials to force a prominent Galway businessman to immediately reinstate lands in Knocknacarra to the way they were before he illegally developed a road that is as wide "as a landing strip for small aircraft".

An aerial photograph taken recently shows the extent of the unauthorised works carried out by city auctioneer John O'Dolan at his lands along the shore at Lough Rusheen which is zoned amenity and is leading into a candidate Special Area of Conservation.

At the Circuit Court last month the works were deemed to be in breach of planning regulations; however Judge Raymond Groarke adjourned the hearing to July 23 to enable the auctioneer to "liaise with the City Council and move things along".

The Council this week informed Cllr Donal Lyons that the unauthorised works "can only be rectified by a successful application for retention", however he is calling on the Council to instruct Mr O'Dolan to restore the lands to what they previously were.

"People may not be able to see it from the Barna Road, but the aerial photographs clearly show the extent of the unauthorised works that the developer undertook in an area that is zoned amenity and Special Area of Conservation.

"It's clearly not a walkway, it's 22 metres wide in places which is wider than the Barna Road. Why did he build a roadway there, it serves no purpose?"

"It's a very sensitive area and if he gets retention for this unauthorised road what is he going to do with it - it's so wide residents fear that it could be used as a landing strip for small aircraft," Cllr Lyons said.

Cllr Lyons said that residents are also concerned that Mr O'Dolan is ultimately hoping to demote the area and have it zoned agricultural which would open it up for development.

He added that he has been a public representative in the area for 22 years, and contrary to suggestions from other councillors, he would never allow Lough Rusheen to be rezoned for development.

"I will fight tooth and nail to have the amenity status of this beautiful area maintained," he said.

Yesterday residents sent a letter to Director of Planning Tom Connell referring to Mr O'Dolan's claim that the unauthorised roadway along the shoreline could eventually form part of an amenity pathway which may be developed by the Council.

"We are aware that there are no current City Council plans for a pathway and that any such plans would require to be processed as provided for in Part 8 of the Local Government Regulations 2001.

"Were the Council to reach agreement with Mr O'Dolan to the effect that this unauthorised roadway could now be deemed to be approved as part of a future public pathway, such approval would also contravene the above mentioned regulations unless the required procedures were followed."

The residents also noted in the letter that other issues brought by the Council to court have not been resolved including trees removed and damaged within the curtilege of the site and on adjoin amenity and SAC lands; archaeological site damage; intrusion into the amenity and SAC lands by constructing roadways, erecting fences and gateways; the raising of walls along the boundary of the site which is a protected view line; and the introduction of tons of boulders, rock and fill onto the site.

Meanwhile, this week Cllr Niall O Brolchain expressed fears that the special area could be "buried under a mass of concrete and exclusive apartments" and "turned into a playground for the rich".

Galway City Tribune

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