Opponents of the Galway bypass plan, which is due to be debated at a special city council meeting on Monday 23rd, have received legal opinion questioning the validity of the project.
The Galway N6 Action Group, representing residents in the Bushypark/Dangan/ Circular Road area west of the river Corrib, say that the transfer of powers from one local authority to another for land acquisition and route construction may be “void”.
NUI Galway, Galway Racecourse and hundreds of other groups and individuals have already expressed opposition to the revitalised bypass scheme, which relies mainly on road options cutting through the city to solve the traffic congestion.
The six options unveiled in late January involve demolition of 30-120 homes, and some 4,500 landowners, businesses and householders lie within the various “corridors”.
All of the six lie south of the previously proposed outer bypass, which was abandoned on environmental grounds after expenditure of €14 million on planning and legal costs.
The new routes are costed at €500-€750 million, and a decision on a “final preferred route” to be submitted to Bord Pleanála is expected next month.
Galway County Council
is leading the project, as lands for the various possible routes straddle both city and county. The city council transferred responsibility to its county counterpart in November 2013 under section 85 of the Local Government Act 2001.
In the section 85 order, the city council states that it believes this arrangement would be “more convenient” as the route would begin and end in the county.
However, the Galway N6 Action Group says the order refers to the “Galway city outer bypass” – as in the old project – rather than the “Galway N6 Transport Project”, as the new scheme is now known.
Action group spokesman Colman Collins says its information has been circulated to all city councillors in advance of the March 23rd meeting. "We would like to see this raised by councillors, and we would like them to exert their right to ensure this project is stopped," he said.
A number of motions before the city council are irrelevant if the project remains outside its control, he has pointed out.
A city council spokesman said that the majority of councillors who voted for the order “knew it referred to the new bypass project”.
The Galway City Development Plan 2011-2017 has been “varied” to remove specific reference to an outer-city bypass, on the basis of “advice received”, the spokesman said.
NUIG, which opposes all the routes, has already questioned why light rail and other smarter transport options are not being considered by the project team.
The Galway N6 Action Group, representing up to 900 members, including a former city engineer, university lecturers and medical professionals, says it also believes light rail should be considered.
In its submission, it warns of the health risks in medical assessment reports by consultant surgeon Prof Michael Kerin and general practitioner Dr Mary Regan.
It says that the hasty public consultation “blatantly ignored” the social impact of routes on communities and parishes.
“One could be forgiven for wondering if there is a cynical exercise going on here,” action group spokesman Mr Collins said.
“One would wonder whether the council is hoping to go back to the European Court of Justice and say there are no alternatives except the original route,” he said. A county council motion has already agreed to send a delegation to Brussels to explore whether the original bypass route can be revived.
However, Fine Gael Galway West TD Seán Kyne has said that he does not believe this is possible.