The recent decision of all bar two Galway city councillors(Fianna Fáil's Michael Crowe voted against; his brother Ollie Crowe abstained) to support Councillor Derek Nolan’s motion to axe a new road through the Terryland Forest Park from the Galway City Development Plan was to be applauded and represented a great victory for local democracy.
The almost unanimous vote of City Council lined up our local elected representatives alongside Galway West TDs from all political parties, the 10,000 people who signed the petition against the road and all those organisations and individuals who did likewise in early 2008 when the Headford Road Framework Plan was unveiled. Its public consultation process represented the largest involvement of citizens with the planning and development process since the controversy over proposals to build a regional waste incinerator in Galway ten years ago.
But we are shocked that city officials had decided, after sitting on the report for the last few years, to ‘bin’ an exercise that attracted such high local input. Many groups and individuals had invested considerable time and effort into making submissions to the Headford Road Framework Plan. Hence its abandonment makes a mockery of public consultation and a considerable waste of taxpayers’ monies as a team of high-powered consultants were hired to bring the report to fruition.
Most people were and are in agreement with the need to regenerate the 76 acres along the Headford Road that contains a number of derelict sites, an unattractive streetscape, a anti-cycling/anti-pedestrian transport artery and underutilised parks. But they felt that local authority officials’ determination to build a road through the developing forest was a betrayal of the thousands of citizens of all ages who enthusiastically heeded the call of City Hall to plant trees in Terryland Forest Park ten years ago when they were being promised that this new green zone was to become a “People’s Park”catering for older people, schools, colleges and arts groups as well as a proposed ‘ecological corridor’ linking the lower Dyke Road area to Castlegar village. It is also the case that building in a flood plain in a time of global climate change and rising water levels is contrary to Irish government’s recommendations to local authorities.
Likewise, many experts felt that constructing a new link road that would bring traffic towards Woodquay along a widened Dyke Road from a Quincentennial Bridge equipped with traffic lights would only worsen traffic congestion in the city.
We are requesting councillors to ensure that the Headford Road Framework Plan is published and that the expenditure outlay be made known. Otherwise ordinary people’s confidence in any future public consultation process undertaken by Galway city council will be seriously undermined.