By Matt Cassidy, Galway Advertiser
Community groups and members of the local community are disappointed with the Galway City Council’s decision to rezone meadows in Marlin Park.
The vote on the material alterations in the Galway City Development Plan allows for rezoning for specific development of seven acres of public land at Merlin Park meadows to build a hospice, an education centre,and a car park of 120 spaces.
A spokesperson for Friends of Merlin Woods community group, Caroline Stanley, said they were very disappointed by Galway City Council’s decision as it will have a serious impact on the wildlife that inhabit it.
“We are very disappointed, because we thought we had explained our case back in February 2014 when councillors voted to protect it. In the habitat management plan that was done for the woodlands, one of the points that was raised was that any more fragmentation of the woodlands would have a serious impact because a lot of species would use the meadow land. Even a lot of species along the coastline would come in and use the woodland.
The HSE shouild have realised that it is recreational amenity land and that it is zoned for wildlife and the people who use it.”
Ms. Stanley said the community group’s objections and opinions along with a petition of 5,00 signatures have been completely disregarded by the council but will continue in their effort to protect the area. “(We feel) Absolutely disregarded. We were not the only ones disregarded because the CEO Brendan McGrath and the city planners’ recommendations were disregarded as well. I believe they saw the value of the woodland and meadows.
“We will have to look at the plans that come forward from Galway City Hospice and then we will have to look at other areas where we can get further protection of the woodlands.”
Conservation Volunteers Galway (CVG) were also dismayed at the result of the council’s vote.
CVG spokesperson Peter Butler said: “The decision to rezone this wildflower meadow flies in the face of need or logic. Ample unused areas exist within the vast grounds of Merlin Park Hospital, with plenty of space for developments, including a new hospice, whereas this is the only EU Annex ! Lowland Haymeadow accessible in Galway city.”
Spokesperson for the city council Gary McMahon said: “An argument was made on both sides of the situation and a democratic decision was taken by the elected members of Galway City Council. The assessing of the City Development Plan is a reserved function of the locally elected representatives.
“This is a rezoning: rezoning is not planning permission. Planning permission will still have to be sought and planning permission will have to be formed to the best standards of planning and development.