Hearing hears rejection of claim no viable alternative to Galway port expansion

Final day of An Bord Pleanála hearing into €126 million redevelopment plan

An aerial view of Galway Harbour.

An aerial view of Galway Harbour.

 

Shannon Foynes port has rejected claims by Galway Harbour Company that there are “no viable alternatives” to its €126 million expansion plan.

“The fact remains that the Shannon Foynes Port Company facility is an accessible deep water commercial port that currently operates on a 24 hour basis and which currently services the entire western seaboard of Ireland and inland counties,” Shannon Foynes representative Mary Hughes told the final day of a Bord Pleanála hearing into Galway’s plan on Friday.

Although Galway is designated as a regional or third tier port, Ms Hughes told the hearing that the tonnage predictions for its proposed expansion were akin to those of an existing “Tier 2” port such as Waterford or Rosslare.

Ms Hughes pointed out that there already was a deep water commercial port in Foynes, which is a designated “Tier 1” port just 130kms to the south of the proposed development.

“Because the development is contrary to the provisions of national ports policy it cannot be considered to be in accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the area,” Ms Hughes said.

In his final submission, Ian Lumley of An Taisce questioned the wisdom of developing a new commercial port which “lacks connection” to the national roads and motorway system, while it would also have a macro traffic impact on Galway’s urban centre.

Mayor of Galway Donal Lyons said he was fully supportive of the plan which was vital for the future of the city.

Esmond Keane SC, on behalf of Galway Harbour Company, said there were no viable alternatives to the expansion plan.

He underlined the importance of the plan in terms of providing an economic boost to the region and allowing the development of marine tourism.

“There are significant public reasons for this development to succeed,” he said. “It is not feasible to suggest that cruise [SHIP]tourism could be relocated to another port away from Galway.”

Mr Keane expressed disappointment that An Taisce had failed to acknowledge the economic benefits which the redevelopment would bring to the city and the region, specifically in relation to cruise and marina tourism.

“Unless this development succeeds, it will mark the inevitable decline of Galway as a port for commercial and cruise traffic,” he said.

Mr Keane added that every effort would be made by the developers to minimise the impact on the designated European habitat to the south of the existing harbour.

Presiding Inspector Paul Caprani formally closed the oral hearing after two weeks of evidence and a full report is expected by the end of March.

The original planning application attracted over 130 submissions. It was the first in Ireland to use the ‘IROPI’ route, which would allow a significant infrastructural development on a designated European habitat on the basis of ‘Imperative Reasons of Overriding Public Interest’.