Galway hospice to seek permission for building close to biodiverse woodland
Community group says it is disappointed hospice not seeking alternative location
The 18-bed Galway Hospice in Renmore has been seeking more space to provide palliative care for some years. File photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy
Galway Hospice said it hoped a revised plan for a new 36-bed facility will reduce its impact on one of the city’s oldest and most biodiverse woodland areas.
The hospice intends to lodge a planning application shortly with Galway City Council for the new building, estimated to cost €20 million, close to the State-owned Merlin Park University Hospital campus.
However, Friends of Merlin Woods, a community group campaigning to protect sensitive woodlands on the campus, said it was disappointed the hospice was not seeking an alternative location.
The community group stressed its dispute was not with the hospice but with the Health Service Executive (HSE), which it said could have provided an alternative plan at a lower environmental cost.
The 18-bed hospice in Renmore has been seeking more space to provide palliative care for some years, while continuing to provide homecare and daycare services for over 730 clients, according to current figures.
The hospice has served as the city’s primary palliative care provider since 1997.
The new development involves a two-storey building with 36 specialist palliative care beds, a day care centre, therapy rooms and education facilities.
The hospice said the HSE agreed to sell the site to it in 2015, but the transfer was dependent on planning permission being secured.
Two years ago, a majority of city councillors agreed to a revision in the draft city development plan which would allow Galway Hospice to build on a seven-acre site within Merlin Woods, which had been zoned for recreational and amenity use.
Galway City Council’s planning department had opposed the rezoning, arguing that the location the hospice had earmarked for what was then a 26-bed unit was not the best location.
“This site has high environmental and amenity value, significant biodiversity, characteristics of protected habitats and high diversity of flora and fauna,” senior planner Helen Coleman had told the city council and had recommended a more appropriate location should be found.
Galway Hospice Foundation chief executive Mary Nash said this week the Merlin Park site met all the requirements of a “homelike environment”, with access to outside space, while being in close proximity to an acute hospital.
She said the new hospice – with 10 more beds than planned for two years ago – would allow for the treatment of more patients in response to increased demand.
Friends of Merlin Woods spokeswoman Caroline Stanley said: “We are all aware of the needs of cancer patients, but we don’t believe we can lose green space that is beneficial to the health of a community of some 30,000 people – projected to double – when there are other sites available for the hospice.”