The above meeting was held in Claregalway Leisure Centre on Tuesday, 29th June 1999, attended by Mr. Eddie Power, Mr. Gus McCarthy and Mr. Enda Howley all representing the Planning Department of Galway County Council.
Mr. Hugh Brady and Ms. Helena Gavin represented Brady, Shipman and Martin Planning Consultants employed by Galway County Council to draw up a development plan for the Village of Claregalway.
Virtually, every Community group in the Claregalway area was represented at the meeting with almost 70 interested people attending.
The meeting started with a presentation made by Mr. Brady and Ms. Gavin outlining the process involved in drawing up a development plan and the statutory requirements laid down to execute this process.
After the presentation, the attendees were split into two groups so that they could discuss their wishes and concerns for the future development of Claregalway and its environs.
The following is an accurate summary of the 35 topics and concerns raised by the group that I was part of. I was nominated as spokesman for our group—i.e. Community Action Group. The spokesman for the group Mr. Kevin Moran echoed the following concerns almost to the word.
- The people do not want a town; they want their village and the statutory authorities work, for the people and they need to consider the wishes of the people very carefully in developing this plan.
- Dismay was expressed by the delay in publishing the Galway Transportation Study and the group felt hampered by the lack of information. This study was originally scheduled to be published in January; it is now six months late. We understand that the two local authorities are holding up the plan. People want an explanation for the delay.
- The National Roads Authority allocated £300,000 for the design of the Claregalway bypass and the Dual carriageway from Claregalway to Galway City. Six months have passed since that money was allocated. The people want to see the plans urgently and want to have input into the final decision. This bypass will have a fundamental effect on the life of the people of Claregalway for a very long time in the future. Planners don’t have to live with the consequences. This is why we want to get it right first time; there are no second chances. People feel very strongly that no major development take place until the by-pass is in place. The current road system is greatly over stretched without adding additional traffic to it.
- The design for the Sewerage Treatment plant for Claregalway was supposed to be completed by April 1999. Has this happened? Several speakers expressed grave reservations about the wisdom of putting a major treatment plant adjacent to the largest river feeding Lough Corrib. This in turn is the water source for the entire City and large parts of County Galway. How can Galway County Council safeguard the health of the people of Galway? What are the long-term effects of partially treated sewerage on the overall health of the people? Can we afford the sexless fish scenario?
- The solution we propose is to pump the sewerage into Galway City to Mutton Island where the technology will be in place to provide a better level of treatment than could happen in Claregalway. This option should be costed.
- The historical significance of the area around the Abbey, Castle, Nine Arches and the old 12th Century church ruins and graveyard near the ball alley need to be developed for the benefit of the people of Claregalway. The banks of the river need to be developed so that better use can be made of that area as a leisure facility for the people. The river is a unique natural resource and maximum use should be made of it for leisure with both riverside walks and boating and fishing facilities. Claregalway Amenity Group have had plans drawn up for such an amenity. It was also felt that this area should be the natural centre of the village and that any development should complement and enhance this unique resource.
- The meeting felt that the provision of a plan, with various areas coloured in on a map is not a good way to decide the future of a village that is so steeped in history. The meeting was informed that funding could be available from the EU for the provision of a 3D image of the proposed street plan of the village and that this would give the local people a feel as to what the village would look like when development was completed. Gus McCarthy gave a commitment that he would look into the feasibility of doing this and whether funding could be made available for this work. He pointed out that this was not part of the normal development plan process. The meeting was adamant that this should be done.
- The Group felt that in the current plan very little space was allocated to Community facilities. In particular, the play area for the school is inadequate for the number of children in the school. It was also felt that an extended area around the Leisure Centre be allocated for other sporting activities. The area needs other leisure facilities for indoor pursuits. A swimming pool should be included in the plan as part of a hotel complex or as a stand-alone facility. We believe the demand exists for such a facility, Look at the success of the Oranmore facility.
- Provision needs to be made for an increase in school numbers. This can be catered for, by allowing for the expansion of the existing school or identifying a green field site in another location near the centre of population.
- The people of Claregalway do not want a repeat of planning disasters such as have occurred in parts of Galway city and are insistent that the public facilities be put in place before development takes place and this extends to things like a medical centre, library, etc.
- People in Claregalway like ribbon development as it brings new life into areas that may have an ageing population and a mix of age groups is good for an area.
- The group has a preference for cluster type developments, as these tend to foster a greater sense of community. They also stated that the developments be mixed to lend a sense of character in an area. The housing density needs to be in keeping with the village concept rather than the large-scale development more appropriate to a city. Good design principles need to be insisted upon. Good design pays back very quickly. Bad designs can be a costly mistake.
- Public spaces need to be incorporated into every development in a way that they are a benefit to the community at large. Planners need to ensure that developments blend in and complement each other. Developments need to incorporate native species of trees as they give a sense of peace to an area and ultimately add considerably to the value of an area as the trees mature.
- Provision needs to be put in place for shopping facilities that blend into a village setting. It was also felt that if these developments had living accommodation that the village would have life after the shops close as happens in other areas.
- Provision needs to be made for an area for industrial developments as it makes sense to have industry locally which will generate revenue for the local community and will help to lessen the need for everyone to travel to Galway to find work adding to the already chaotic traffic. This area should be close to the National Routes, as industrialists need access for goods and people.
- People like living in Claregalway because it is a village. They are very concerned to see it develop in an uncontrolled manner. The development should be carefully planned and phased over a long number of years so that the community can evolve gradually.
- All developments in the area should be named in Irish and English and we encourage developers to make greater use of the Irish language. Claregalway Amenity Group initiated the setting up of a Naíonra starting in September, thereby encouraging the revival of the Irish language in a Gaeltacht area.
- Galway County Council needs to make a greater effort in sign-posting the village, as there appear to be only two signposts for Claregalway. One just outside Oranmore and the other at Carnmore Cross. There are no signs for Claregalway on the Tuam Road. Loughgeorge is better sign-posted than Claregalway village.
- Public transport needs to be catered for in the development plan so that in the future we may have an efficient public transport system that is capable of adjusting to peoples’ needs and lifestyles so as to eliminate some of the cars from our roads. C.I.E. need to be approached to look at the feasibility of an IMP type service serving the Claregalway and district area.
As part of the development plan process we will make sure that our public representatives both local and national understand, represent and deliver on our wishes as a community.
We can all work together and the more consultation and discussion takes place the easier the task of the local authority planers and developers.
Vincent Lyons, Secretary
(Community Action Group)