Bord Pleanála hearing into Galway harbour extension to open

First phase of €126m plan offering compensation for loss of fragile environment

The oral hearing into the first phase of a proposed €126 million expansion of Galway harbour is expected to run for at least three weeks. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

The oral hearing into the first phase of a proposed €126 million expansion of Galway harbour is expected to run for at least three weeks. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

An Bord Pleanála is due to open an oral hearing today into the first phase of a €126 million expansion of Galway harbour that aims to provide cruise liner berths, a marina and potential “mini Sydney opera house” if approved.

The four-phase port extension plan involves reclaiming 27 hectares of environmentally sensitive bay area to move the existing port south and provide deepwater berths.

The harbour company said it has consulted with the European Commission on invoking a clause under the EU habitats directive which involves offering compensation for loss of fragile environment. The IROPI (imperative reasons of overriding public interest) provision under article 6 (4) of the EU habitats directive was first used to seek approval for a motorway in Hessen, Germany.

Member states are required to take “all compensatory measures necessary” to ensure environmentally fragile sites, designated under Natura 2000, are protected, and the European Commission has to be informed.

The oral hearing is expected to run for at least three weeks in Galway’s Connacht Hotel, as it has received more than 130 written submissions, with more than 100 in support of the project.

Experts in hydrology, underwater noise, birdlife, marine species and water quality will give evidence today, while Inland Fisheries Ireland, An Taisce, the Cladonian Mariners’ Community Boat Club, Birdwatch Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service are listed for tomorrow.

Concerns about potential flooding, impact on the environment, inshore fishing and the visual impact are among principal objections; Shannon-Foynes harbour has also registered its opposition.