Thursday 21 March 2019

Major road project shot down over fears for ‘protected limestone' area

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

A MAJOR road development for Galway is unlikely to go ahead because it will destroy a protected limestone area.

After a European Court of Justice ruling this morning, a new route will have to be found for the controversial Galway bypass if it is to get the green light.

The court has found that destruction of almost 1.5 hectares of limestone paving will have a negative impact on a protected site near the River Corrib.

It means that a new route will have to be found for the bypass which should have helped reduce traffic congestion in the city.

The road would have bypassed the city, before crossing the Corrib and removing thousands of cars a day from the city.

The judgment comes after environmental campaigner Peter Sweetman and the Department of the Environment challenged a decision by An Bord Pleanala to grant permission for the road in November 2008.

Some months earlier, the Government had proposed making the area an area of special conservation - which is protected under EU law - but the formal decision to declare it as protected was not made until three weeks after the board had ruled.

The case was appealed to the High Court, which ruled in favour of the board, and then to the Supreme Court.

It decided that, given the legal issues involved, that the EJC should decide whether the development would have an adverse impact on a protected area.

The board defended the action with Galway city and county councils, while the  British government also submitted that the road would not have an impact on the entire 85-hectare limestone site, as just 1.47 hectares would be affected.

This morning, the court ruled that the precautionary principal should apply - or that the road should not be approved unless it could be proved it would not affect the entire site.

Galway County Council and Galway City Council could also make a case to the European Commission that the project is of such public importance that it should proceed.

This would involve making case to the European Commission under the IROPI (Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest) provisions in European law, which says a protected area can be impacted by a project which would benefit the public.

It is not clear if the application would succeed, as it has been rarely used.

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