Galway Community Campaigners Win Fight Against Road Development in Forest!

Big Victory for Galway Community Campaign But Demands for an Investigation into the Abandonment of the Headford Road Framework Plan
As spokesperson of community environmental campaign group the Friends of the Terryland Forest,  I called this week for an investigation into the abandonment of the Headford Road Framework Plan almost two years after its completion.

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.

Britain's Iraqi War Tribunal- Another Political Whitewash!

It was obvious from today's appearance of Tony Blair at the British Tribunal into the Iraqi War, that its members were his friends & allies, as well as some being open supporters of the war & of Israel (who wanted Saddam toppled). They asked no difficult questions & listened often in silence to his long well-rehearsed replies. Blair played a crucial part in securing the peace process in Northern Ireland during the late 1990s. But he deserves to be tried as an international war criminal in The Hague for his role in the death of 100,000s Iraqis, the forced exile of millions, the use of WMDs...
The British 'old boys' network lives on!

City Hall Needs to Formally Abandon Forest Road Plan

Winter Wonderland in Terryland Forest Park

My favourite local community environmental group, the Friends of the Forest, has called on Galway City Council to learn from the lessons of the recent flooding experienced in county Galway by publicly abandoning the controversial proposal to build a road through the low-lying Terryland Forest Park and to finally publish the long-overdue Headford Road Framework Plan with its accompanying 2008 public consultations findings.

We have been lobbying for the publication of the Headford Road Framework Plan since the spring of 2008 when we presented a petition with over 10,000 names against the recommendations of city officials to construct a major link road through the Terryland Forest Park with a corresponding widening of the Dyke Road that would signal the destruction of one of the city’s last great natural heritage areas. Yet nearly two years on we are astonished that this report, carried out with significant taxpayers monies, has still not been released.

We agreed wholeheartedly with the original brief given to the consultants to provide a blueprint for the sustainable retail and public space development of a major 76 acres area of the city that urgently requires urban regeneration due to the presence of prominent derelict sites, a series of unaesthetic buildings, under-utilised parklands, and a anti-pedestrian/anti-cycling transport artery dominated by car traffic.

But it would be a travesty of the public consultation process as well as undermining the concept of local democracy if officials publish the report with the new road element still included as was alluded to last autumn. For, based on the size of our petition and the content of the majority of the submissions made to the report in 2008, it is obvious that the local population are against this road construction. It also goes against the council’s own policies on ecological corridors and protection of natural heritage areas and will only worsen the traffic situation by encouraging even more cars into an already congested city centre.

Furthermore, the recent disastrous flooding experienced in Galway county provides ample evidence of the inherent dangers of building houses and roads in floodplains. In response to the flooding of the summer of 2008, the Minister of the Environment John Gormley instructed local authorities in Ireland that no significant developments should be undertaken in floodplains.

This proposed road is situated in the Terryland River valley, in a wetland area and lies below the level of the River Corrib which is only held back by the presence of man-made barriers along the Dyke Road. With rising water levels a symptom of global climate change, it would be irresponsible to proceed with this construction.

In fact the locality’s wetlands should be enhanced as they act as Nature’s sponge by absorbing floodwaters thereby providing a natural defence for the city’s populated areas.

We are calling on the council to now provide a map of the city’s floodplains so that we can plan for the inevitable future floodings.

In the meantime, our group will continue to campaign for greater protection of our natural heritage areas, their increased use as outdoor classrooms, the return of community tree planting and monthly clean-ups of forests through the excellent Gaillimh Suas Glan initiative.