MINISTER FOR the Environment John Gormley is involved in a judicial review of An Bord Pleanála’s decision to approve part of the Galway city outer bypass.
The Department of the Environment has confirmed that the Attorney General will be handling the case on behalf of the Minister, who has become co-respondent in the proceedings issued by environmentalist Peter Sweetman against the State and An Bord Pleanála.
The proceedings are due to be heard in the High Court Commercial Court on June 30th next.
The case is one of two pending on the An Bord Pleanála decision to approve part of the €317 million road project. Environmental group Hands Across the Corrib Ltd, Ballinfoyle, Co Galway, claims that the November 28th, 2008, decision by An Bord Pleanála was based on a flawed environmental impact assessment.
The group also argues an “efficient, intelligent, public transport system” is a “very real alternative” to the proposed bypass and would serve commuters better.
The outer bypass was to have begun construction this year, with completion by 2012, and was identified as part of an “Atlantic road corridor” by former transport minister Martin Cullen. In its ruling last November, An Bord Pleanála turned down the western section of the bypass, citing “fundamental shortcomings” in this section’s design and layout, and the impact of such a development on Tonabrocky Bog’s slender cotton grass (Eriophorum gracile).
The bog cotton is a legally protected and vulnerable plant species. The appeals board also cited a failure to “fully evaluate” other routes in an area near housing at Pollkeen.
Reacting to the “half bypass” approval, several local councillors called for priority to be given to other transport solutions, including a proposed light rail system backed by business interests, known as Gluas.
However, business interests called on the National Roads Authority late last year to expedite work on the approved section and identify an alternative to the disallowed section west of the city.
The business and tourism transport grouping representing Galway Chamber of Commerce, American Chambers Western Branch, the Irish Hotels Federation, Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation (Ibec) West region, and the Information Technology Association Galway did welcome An Bord Pleanála’s approval of a new bridge over the river Corrib as part of the approved section.