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.
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.