Refusal of permission for new Galway hospice ‘devastating’

Galway Hospice seeking advice after An Bord Pleanála objects to development

Galway Hospice inpatient Michele Coghlan: Decision to refuse permission for new facility is ‘just not right’

Galway Hospice inpatient Michele Coghlan: Decision to refuse permission for new facility is ‘just not right’

 

The decision by An Bord Pleanála to refuse permission for a new hospice facility on the grounds of Merlin Park University Hospital in Galway is “devastating”, it has been claimed.

Located on the Dublin Road at Renmore, the current Galway Hospice facility is not fit for purpose and the search for a new site began in 2010. Of the dozens of sites identified and examined, Merlin Park was deemed most suitable and hospice representatives, together with design teams, met Galway City Council planners on numerous occasions before finalising the design.

Galway Hospice at Renmore. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy
Located on the Dublin Road at Renmore, the current Galway Hospice facility is not fit for purpose and the search for a new site began in 2010. File photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy

“Our initial plans were a much bigger scale and footprint but when we started speaking with councillors, some objections came to light. Initially we had asked for 14 acres to be rezoned, we reduced that to seven and went from a single-storey to a two-storey, while being careful to minimise the compromise and impact on patients and families,” said hospice chief executive Mary Nash.

Appealed

When the plans were submitted, the council received 19 submissions from An Taisce, environmental bodies and local residents. The council granted planning permission, subject to a number of conditions.

The council’s decision was appealed to An Bord Pleanála by three parties – An Taisce, Dr Claire Hillery and Friends of Merlin Woods. The grounds of appeal largely related to the preservation of habitats for various bird, animal and plant species.

“One of our planning conditions was that we had to maintain the habitats and we were happy to do that because that was an asset for patients and visitors,” said Ms Nash.

After an oral hearing last December, an An Bord Pleanála inspector recommended the council’s decision be upheld, subject to conditions. On January 25th, An Bord Pleanála overturned this recommendation, saying the development would be “inappropriate and contrary to policies to protect natural heritage”.

Galway Hospice is now considering its position. “The only option is a judicial review but that must be on a point of law. We’re seeking advice at present,” said Ms Nash.

Michele Coghlan’s first experience with Galway Hospice was in 2016 after she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare form of cancer.

Chemotherapy

Ms Coghlan (64) underwent several bouts of chemotherapy and had a successful stem cell transplant in April 2017. The following December, with her cancer in remission, she had a stroke. “I was out driving one day when I had a stroke and I’ve been paralysed down my left side since then.”

In August 2018, her cancer relapsed. “A stroke and cancer are the two biggest illnesses a person can get in their life and I’m fighting both.”

Currently an in-patient, she credits Galway Hospice with her positive outlook. “The service they provide here is incredible. Cancer is one of the loneliest journeys you’ll ever make. That step to dying is yours; you’re on your own. But the positivity here is great. You really don’t feel like you’re sick here. Galway Hospice is like a haven of tranquillity, peace, care and love,” she said.

She said she was devastated at the decision to refuse permission for the new facility.

“The demand for hospice services in Galway is increasing all the time and these are useless interruptions – it’s just not right.”