It’s time to close the illegal dump in Gort

In August 2017, on the foot of the Government’s anti-illegal dumping initiative, launched by the then Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten, funding was made available to Galway County Council to instigate a major clean-up of illegal dumping around Gort.  This resulted in a blitz clean-up involving Galway County Council and many members of the Gort and wider South Galway communities. Everybody was very optimistic!

Local councillor Joe Byrne indicated at the time that this initiative would give confidence to local people that Galway County Council takes the issue of illegal dumping seriously and was looking forward to the installation of CCTV and barriers on both the Pound road and Kinincha – two rural lane ways to east and west of Gort River.   He called on Galway County Council to ensure that culprits caught in the act of dumping are dealt with severely through the legal system. That was August 2017, about 15 months ago. Today, tragically, the same area is like a war zone.

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The pound road, just 70m from Gort Station, a CCTV station overlooks significant levels of illegal dumping – just one part of Gort’s illegal dump

The situation today is astounding on 2 fronts. Firstly, the level of illegal dumping that goes on in the area is off the charts. There are freezers, fridges, washing machines, household rubbish, nappies, food, tyres, old caravans, broken microwaves, furniture, etc.  The rubbish is spread across a road frontage of 150m and as this stage would easily cover 1000m2

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The rubbish is spread across a road frontage of 150m and as this stage would easily cover 1000m2

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2 Caravans and 1 trailer have been burnt-out since October 2018

This is not a small-scale random dumping – this is one of 2 fully-functioning illegal dumps – within an urban environment – This is so outlandish and unbelievable that any town in the country, in Europe even,  would be left in this state

Secondly, what’s even more astounding is Galway Council Council’s lack of response to this.  There have been repeated calls from our local Councillors to fix this situation but unfortunately, most of the hard work and cost clearing up the place 15 months ago has been rendered useless!

In fairness to Galway County Council and the 2017 clean-up operation a gated access was installed further down the pound road which has worked – it is just that all the dumping is happening now before that gated access – not very surprising really.

This illegal dumping is a scourge on communities and county councils all over the country.  Galway County Council is not to blame for the illegal dumping, but it is responsible (via its Environment Section) for prevention and enforcement and the lack of response here has enabled the development of an illegal dump within an urban center while there were commitments of simple solutions which could have prevented this.   The responsibility here is also not at local/field area level because they are the ones literally on the ground dealing with this all the time but they need the support from head office.

There seems to be a lack of communication and confusion within the council – For instance, from continuous requests for progress on monitoring of illegal dumping in Gort – the response from Galway County Council in May 2018 was “there are technical problems with CCTV, but when resolved, Gort would get priority” – that was 8 months ago and was in relation to security within the GCC network – but this hasn’t been resolved.   However,  in the photograph below we see an installed CCTV monitoring station (with solar panels)  that very few people were aware of (including some of our County Councillors) and the local Environment Warden didn’t even know if they are working or not – (they aren’t). It feels like the Environment Section of Galway County council needs a wake-up call.

Needless to say that the confidence the community were supposed to get after the August 2017 clean up has been significantly diminished.

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Looking north on the Pound Road, the shell of a burnt-out Caravan lays amongst the rubbish, with a CCTV monitoring station in site.

Some local residents out for walk on St. Stephens day, came across potential illegal dumping in progress at this site and subsequently lodged an official complaint.  We’ll see now how Galway County Council responds – and if they will take it seriously.  We’ll also be able to see how this works its way through the system.  Will it really end up in a prosecution and will a fine actually be paid or, is it our legal system that’s causing the issue here?  Without prosecutions and significant fines, there will be zero confidence in enforcement mechanisms and Galway County Council Environment Enforcement will be rendered impotent – and then its a free-for-all for our illegal dumpers!

Impact

My own main reaction to this is disgust and secondary is embarrassment – I’ve taken these pictures on this page, but I was embarrassed to put them up online, because I think it shows our community in bad light.  Then I thought to myself – hang on – our community is not responsible for this. We don’t want this illegal dumping – As a community, we’ve done everything within our power to stop it and we’ve spent 100s of hours clearing rubbish up down the years and have been continuously highlighting it and fighting it.

The issue of illegal dumping has been brought it up time and time again with local Councillors, in public consultation as part of the Gort Local Area Plan (2013 – 2019) Strategic Environmental Assessment and it was a major topic on the recent (Nov 2018) County Galway Joint Policing Committee.  This was also highlighted to Galway County Council in Nov2018 as part of a delegation from the Gort River Walk Group and subsequently highlighted in the Connacht Tribune and Clare Champion as well as on Galway Bay FM.

There is a huge frustration that this has been allowed to happen, time and time again and that as a community, we feel powerless to stop it from happening. We’ve been highlighting it for years and in 2017, with the tidy-up and then broken promises of restricted access and CCTV – it’s allowed the situation to develop again.  There seems to be a blind-spot in Galway County Council for this type of illegal dumping.  Not at the local area level, as they have been instrumental in the previous clean up – but when it comes to resourcing this kind of effort.   As a community we know that this can be fixed with very minimum cost and resources but this lack of action or conviction on part of Galway County Council is not saving money or resources – it’s wasting it and frankly we’ve run out of patience.

Losing an Amenity

The pound road has been used for years as a walking and cycling trail – it’s a wonderful walk that takes you down close by Gort River.

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The Pound Road which skirts the river on the left is now only accessible by walking through the illegal dump

As the only way to access this now is to walk through the illegal dump many people have stopped using this route – the rubbish is just too disgusting and as there is every type of waste here – this will attract vermin.  Gort, unfortunately, has lost a valuable amenity.

There is also recent initiative within the town to develop and promote a Gort River Walk but there is a huge challenge here due to the level of rubbish along the river close to the potential route

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The first steps toward a River Walk in Gort are blighted by illegal dumping

Tourism Impact

This illegal dumping also has an effect on tourism.  Gort has recently been included as part of a Wild Atlantic Way loop which will increase the Tourism potential.  However, if you arrive to Gort by train then the Gort train station is just 70m away from this ‘war-zone’ – What does this say about our town if this is the first thing you see?

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This illegal dumping site is just 70m from Gort Railway Station

“The Gort River walk has potential for visitors and the community. The illegal dumping on the Pound Road & Kinincha ( both along the river, is unacceptable).  It is imperative that the situation is addressed immediately”, said Karen O’ Neill, director of The Burren Lowlands Group, which is involved in promoting regional tourism and has been very active in in securing a loop off the Wild Atlantic Way and other projects.

Environmental Impact

From an environmental side, the main illegal dump extends to just 10m from Gort river. However, as the litter is uncontained – winds and storms ensure that many items of rubbish will end up in, or next to the river which is very unsightly but where it can be detrimental to our wildlife.

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The litter from the illegal dump can make its way into Gort River

The Gort river system is part of an extensive Karst network in South Galway and is connected directly to Kiltartan, Coole-Garyland and Kinvara through swallow holes and underground rivers. This system is very sensitive to rubbish build-up and illegal dumping can cause damage to this ecosystem (clogging Swallow holes) and increase flood risk.

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Because of the Karst network, floating rubbish will accumulate in the swallow holes (Castletown) and may diminish flows

Galway County council has a responsibility to protect this waterway and this is specifically called out in the Gort Local Area Plan.

It is the policy of Galway County Council to support the conservation and enhancement of natural heritage and biodiversity, including the protection of the integrity of European sites, that form part of the Natura 2000 network…  The protection of natural heritage and biodiversity, including European sites that form part of the Natura 2000 network, will be implemented in accordance with relevant EU environmental directives (Policy NH1 – Natural Heritage and Biodiversity, Gort Local Area Plan)

Issues

The key issue is that enables this horrendous situation to develop is unmonitored,  unrestricted and unmaintained access to this area. Not only can people just pop in and get rid of their rubbish, but they can also drive overland and dump it where they like, and they know they won’t be caught. However even if they are caught – will it really matter?  Will anything happen (At time of publication we have a Freedom-Of-Information query to Galway County Council looking for the number of prosecutions for illegal dumping)

The maintenance aspect is a big issue because it seems that there were barriers installed (in the wrong area) and CCTV installed (in the wrong area) – but these have both been damaged and not repaired – giving open season to the dumpers as is captured in the image below.

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A damaged CCTV monitoring station allows a fully functioning illegal dump.

Note: The reason it’s a wrong area for access is that it’s too far down the Pound road and people simple dump before the access.   If CCTV is going to be installed, then it needs to be inaccessible from someone with a sweeping brush standing on the back of a pick-up truck.

Solution

This isn’t rocket science – it’s just being pragmatic about how this should be approached. The solution for Gort should be :

  • Simplify and restrict access
  • Monitor the access and site
  • Maintain the access and monitoring station regulary
  • Prosecute people if they are involved in illegal dumping

Simplify and restrict access

There have been some access restrictions further down the Pound road and this has seen a big improvement in the level of illegal dumping there – so .. it works … it just needs to be gated earlier. Firstly, current access gates need to be brought closer to the station road and installed properly.   This access would need to be discussed with the necessary stakeholders and land owners, but it could be seen as a replacement of an already existing (but broken) barrier.  As this is a potential amenity road, it would be good to ensure pedestrian access, footpath also.

Even with this new gated access, the land access in proximity to the site will also need to be restricted so people cannot just drive onto land and dump stuff there. Simple mounds or stone barriers should suffice to restrict land access.

Monitor the access and site

Then we need CCTV/monitoring. These need to be installed high-up and be tamper-proof, very similar to what is in Gort Train Station at the moment.

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Maintenance of the access and site

This one is simple, if something breaks, fix it immediately.  If a camera is too exposed – move it, or better still add another camera!

Prosecutions

According to Galway County Council  :

Leaving or throwing litter in a public place is an offence that can be subject to an on-the-spot fine of €150 or a maximum fine of €3,000 if you are convicted of a litter offence in the District Court. You can be issued with an on-the-spot fine by a litter /community warden appointed by your Local Authority or by a member of the Gardaí. n such instances, direct prosecutions should be brought against the alleged offender.

Where large-scale illegal dumping occurs, Galway County Council feels that the on-the-spot fine of €150 is not sufficient. In such instances, direct prosecutions should be brought against the alleged offender.

With public awareness and the proposed CCTV, we can catch people in the act of illegal dumping but in order to be efficient we need fast follow up fines and prosecutions.

Commitments

In Dec 2018 in the Galway Advertiser – Galway County Council took out a full page Ad titled “Galway County Council tackles illegal dumping” and showed the same scenes that we have seen in Gort in the 2017 clean-up – a dirty ‘before’.. and a clean ‘after’. However, from our experience here in Gort, there is another ‘after’ where all that cost and effort is undone as the illegal dumping continues.

It is estimated that this will take between €15,000-€20,000  and a lot of Galway County Council time and resources and community action to remove this illegal dump and clear up this area and more for Kinincha.

This worsening situation was highlighted by the Gort River Walk group and shortly before Christmas Councillor Joe Byrne reiterated his call on the illegal dumping in Gort where he asked specifically about when working CCTV systems will be installed on station road and Kinincha road.

We are looking for a definite commitment from Galway County Council to tackle this problem quickly and thoroughly – and this means ensuring the problem doesn’t just move down the Kinincha Road.

Broader than that we need to ensure our County Councils are supported at all levels to tackle this issue and have more streamlined legal processes to enforce this issue.  The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton said recently that illegal dumping is first and foremost a matter of individual responsibility and compliance with the law.  He said while enforcement action in this area is a matter for local authorities, his Department is planning a review of its Anti-Dumping Initiative is underway which will inform a 2019 anti-dumping work programme that will place an increased emphasis on those who facilitate the unauthorised movement and disposal of waste.

Next Steps

“On 18th Dec,  I was informed that a method to remotely monitor footage from CCTV installations whilst ensuring the integrity and safety of the Councils network is maintained has been agreed and the CCTV programme may now proceed.”, stated Councillor Joe Byrne.  “In this regard I am now in communication with Ann Dolan, Head of Enforcement, Environment Services and as Cathaoirleach of Loughrea Municipal District, I have the matter included on Agenda for our next meeting on 10th Jan 2019.”

We’ve spoken today to some members in Galway County Council (who have visited the site before the Christmas and reacted with the same levels of disgust) and it also sounds we have a watershed moment and the beginnings of a wheel turning here – but we need to hear Galway County Council  commitment loud and clear.

We intend to meet with Galway County Council in January 2019 to highlight our intolerance to this situation and seek commitment on the 4 key aspects of the most effective solution for both Pound and Kinincha roads.

  • Simplify and restrict access –( Install new gated access immediately and in conjunction with landowners.)
  • Monitor the access and site – (Install tamper-proof CCTV station immediately)
  • Maintain the access and monitoring station regularly
  • Prosecute people if they are involved in illegal dumping – there is a complaint submitted.

Let’s hope that 2019  gets rid of Gort’s Illegal Dump. To play your part if you want to highlight this as an issue then please offer your opinion/complaint on the illegal dumping then phone 091 509510, click environment@galwaycoco.ie to create email template, or fill out an Environmental Complaint Form.  It’s time to give voice to this!

-David Murray

 

References

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Application for proposed Biogas Plant in Gort has been withdrawn

 

On the foot of a harsh assessment of a seriously deficient environmental impact assessment (EIA), the developers of a super biogas manufacturing plant in Gort have withdrawn their application.  The key concerns that were raised by concerned residents were reflected in the Galway County Council assessment of the submitted EIA.

The Gort Concerned Residents group indicated that the biogas plant would have a negative impact on the town and surrounding environment.

  • Health and safety issues from a substantial volume of heavy vehicles, transporting materials to/from the plant (Peak of 242 HGVs/ Day) coming to with 200m of Gort centre
  • The biogas plant site was just 10m from Gort River and the connectivity with Coole, Garryland and Kinvara Bay.
  • The feasibility of having a plant this size away from some key biomass sources (e.g. pig farms)

In general people are in favour of Biogas techniques – but not of this size, so close to a town and river.

The developers were given 6 months to submit a revised environmental impact statement to address but the deadline is now passed and the application has been withdrawn.

For more information:

For more information on the key concerns :

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Vision Remembered: Guaire Magazine

Sometimes it’s good to delve back into the past, tease out and identify something that was ahead of its time – something visonary ‘back-in-the-day’ ( A phrase that my kids now use in relation to my youth!) . Something that at the time people could have said – ‘You Can’t do that’, ‘It will never work’ etc.  and yet despite that they went and ploughed ahead and forged something remarkable.  There are many examples of these things and the past week brings one to the fore – Guaire Magazine!

Guaire Magazine

Recently – at the launch of the new Guaire Magazine 2018 in the Lady Gregory Hotel, by Tonii Kelly, Guaire Magazine Editor, presented a special bouquet of flowers to Josephine Ward to celebrate her participation in Guaire Magazine since 1978 and her wonderful artwork has blessed the magazine many a time through the last 40 years all the way up to the latest publication in 2018 – which features the wonderful Kilmacduagh Tower.

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In the early days  Fr. Enda Glynn, Peadar O Conaire, Josephine Ward and Brendan Long where the key drivers and they inspired many of the young and the old to write about their community or contribute stories, poems or pictures.   It captured snapshots of our community that would have otherwise been lost in history.

In a way, Guaire Magazine was South Galway’s first ‘social media’

Founding Guaire Editor, Peadar Ó Conaire, recalls how the magazine started:

How it started was peculiar because I came to Kilmacduagh in November 1966 and then moved to Gort town in 1970 to become principal of the boys’ school. I had wanted to start a magazine in Gort and got in touch with Fr. Enda Glynn in Ros an Mhil, because he had a successful parish magazine going there which I had seen while at university.

“So the next thing, he was transferred to Gort, to my great joy and I approached him and he was delighted with the idea, so we sat down together with the late Brendan Long, a teacher in Kiltartan and Josephine Ward, a local teacher and artist who is still involved and has designed many covers through the years. That meeting was in September 1978 and we got the first issue out in October of that year.

As the years went by the Guaire magazine ebbed and flowed like the tide but there was always a group that kept the vision alive.  So we have to understand that Guaire magazine is a past vision realised.  It had to be difficult to get it off the ground and get it going and now it’s a treasure chest for many. All past issues have been archived so people can browse and reference those snapshots in time.

This years Guaire Magazine is a credit to the editoral committee, producers and artists.  It is so professional and at €5 it’s so well worth it.  Send a copy to someone abroad- its still giving a snapshot of Gort in time.   It’s great to see it drawing inspiration for many of our young writers out there.  We have to make sure that its well supported!

Why not browse through the archives (which are in PDF Format) at  http://www.guaire.org/archives.html

It takes a Community!

Here’s a ‘shortlist’ of people who helped in putting the magazine together sine 1978 and includes editorial board, advertising, photography etc, (Note : It doesn’t include the 100s of contributors – and may not include all!)

Fr. Enda Glynn, Peadar O Conaire, Josephine Ward, Brendan Long, Audrey O’Connor, Mary Moloney, Maria Long , Anne McInerney, Bernadette Fennessy, Elizabeth Joyce, Eva Martyn, ​Niall Shaw, Joan Hallinan, Patricia Kelly, Breda Piggott , Patricia Walsh, Anne Fitzgibbon, ​Nicholas Cafferkey, Suzanne Griffin, Angela Moran, Pamela Jordan, Marian Carr, Patricia Cahill , Annette Molony, Michael Finnegan, John McLoughlin, Michael Cooley, Irene Gill, Frank Lally, Mary Roche, Adrian Moloney , Ken Carr, Chris O’Shaughnessy, Elizabeth Joyce , Fiona Murray, Ingrid McGrath, ​Noreen Corcoran, Patrick Flaherty, Tim Gleeson, Gearoid Keating, Fr Jimmy Walsh, John Finnegan, Tim O’Driscoll,  Margaret Linnane, Paddy Cooke, Evelyn Roche, Sean Leahy, Michael Bermingham,  Hilda Roche, Michael O’Dwyer, Mossey Clabby, Jimmy Hannigan, Pius Murray, Colm Ward, Dick Burke, Patty Cahill, Evelyne Roche, Fr Martin Coen, Johnny Spelman, Peter Walsh, Monica McGrath, Oliver Mahon, Micheal Cahill, Jimmy Collins, Anne Gallagher, Johnny Spellman, Tony Platt, Claire Melville, Fr John Mahon, John Melville, Donal Healy, Pat Fitzgibbon, Brian Brennan, Tony Hannon, Fr JP McMahon, Claire Meville, Ian Cahill, Maura Helebert, Gerardine Killeen, Rose Finnegan, Monica McGrath , Mary Counihan, Mary Hansberry, Christine Brennan, Tony Lannon, Sean Curtin, Richard Wall, Frank Cahill, John Scarry, David O’Reilly, Mike Muldoon, Jim Earley, Tonii Kelly,  Mary Lynskey, , Marty O’Connor, Mavis Gormally, Pat Farrell, Colm Grealish, Fidelma Larkin, Laura McMahon, Hannah Rushe.

Sometimes having a ‘vision’ can be the easy bit, but realising it sometimes takes a community!

-David Murray

References

[1] The History of Guaire : http://www.guaire.org/history.html

 

Trail 1 : Gort’s Golden Mile

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As mentioned previously, Gort was a winner of the Golden Mile competition run by Galway County Council and Galway Rural Development. The Golden Mile of Galway Competition is organised by Galway County Council, Galway Rural Development, Forum Connemara, Meitheal Forbarta na Gaeltachta, Comhdhail Oileáin na hEireann and Galway County Heritage Forum with the support of the farming organisations.

The prize was under the category of  of ‘The Mile showing the Most Potential’.  Sr de Lourdes Fahy with the help of Adrian Feeney, developed the concept and collected the award  (represented the Burren Lowlands Group). They both acknowledged the work carried out by many people in order to achieve this award including Gort No Name Club, Margaret Rochford Community Employment Programme, Pat Finn from Gateway/Galway County Council, Dermot Gillespie, the local farmers, Fergal Fahy, Gort Local Engineer and Gort Gardaí.

The Gort Golden Mile begins in the townland of Ballynamantan and ends in Kinincha and is described by Adrian as follows:

“Views stretch across the countryside into Gort lowlands and across to the Slieve Aughty Mountains. The mid section of the mile consists of a green road. Hedgerow birds are abundant all along the road. A beautiful thatched cottage (Hallinan’s house) can be seen on the roadside; this was the miller’s house in the olden days. A lot of work was done to remove the abundance of litter. The rest of the route into Gort is currently being cleaned up and the Burren Lowlands Group would like to appeal to the public to keep a vigilant eye out for illegal dumping. This is a beautiful road that can be utilised by all members of the community,” he said.

Route

The road stretches from Kinincha to Ballynamantan and provides an alternative access to Coole Park and a loop (4.5km/2.8 miles)  can be completed back into Gort Town.

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A 2.8 mile loop, starting out in Kinincha, via Ballynamantan and out to the Galway road, contains Gort’s Golden Mile – ‘The Mile with the most potential’

Here is a visual tour of the walk!

Realising the Potential

As the winner for the ‘Mile showing the Most Potential‘ – how could this be realised? Firstly, this should be developed as an amenity trail, and not really developed for vehicles (the exception is of course that locals farmer have local access).  Overall to bring the trail to a good level there may not be much development required here but we are probably talking about the following:

  1. The Kinincha road needs a clean up and I’m not just talking rubbish – but also there’s old construction material, cement, blocks that needs to be removed.
  2. The road close to Ballynamantan lake is a bit uneven and can get muddy.
  3. Some seating overlooking the river
  4. Permanent signage along the trail (and from Gort Square) to show people the way.

I’ve talked to some of the locals along the way who were very open to this being developed as an amenity trail.

A second aspect to realising its potential is for people to actually use this.  Karen O’ Neill has been inviting people to come on the trail every Thursday Evening, 7pm from LIDL and the numbers are growing.  Check out the event

 

This is already a beautiful trail and with minimal investment it can be made to realize its potential. Take a walk and see what’s causing all the buzz!  (Send back some pictures!)

David Murray

ps: You can also seem some more picutres of this trail in Katleen Bell-Bonjean’s blog at workinglivingtravellinginireland.com

 

 

Gorgeous Gort’s Greenways – Bringing back the river

The South Galway river system is a unique and magical natural wonder.  There are not many places in the world where the rivers appear and disappear so sporadically leading to elements such as swallow holes, rise and turloughs.

One of three main rivers in the Slieve Aughty western slopes, the Gort river starts off as the Owendalulleegh in the peaks of the Slieve Aughty Mountains and it winds its way down the mountain and into Lough cutra.

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The Owendalulleegh river in Derrybrien East (David Murray)

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The Owendalulleegh river further downstream in Derrybrien South (David Murray)

It takes on its first alias as it leaves Lough Cutra at Russaun as the Beagh River where it flows flows over 4km and disappears into the punchpowel area- a massive imposing cavern.

It briefly makes an appearance for about 150m as the Blackwater river before it sinks underground again and flows west into the earth for 1/2 km.  It reappears in again as the Cannahowana (Head of the river) river

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The Cannahowna River that flows into Gort (David Murray)

This river then flows in towards Gort Town

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From Cannahowna toward Gort Town (Background) (David Murray)

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Gort Fiver flowing behind Supervalu

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Flowing past the convent (David Murray)

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Gort river flowing under the bridge (David Murray)

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Through Gort  (David Murray)

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Past Aldi…

It then flows out toward Lavally, Castletown where it flows past Castletown castle and goes underground to Kiltartan and again underground to Coole and once again undergrouund to Kinvara bay.

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The ‘Castletown’ river then flows past the castle and then flows underground

Gort River Walks – Greenways

While this river flows through Gort – there are no real amenities to access it and enjoy it. There are no real picnic spots.  There are no walks along the river.  The Gort river offers significant safe access potential around the town and the residents of Gort and South Galway would really benefit from amenities around the river and be able to stroll through them and take in the beauty.

“Walking along the meandering and modest Castlebar river evokes the happiest of childhood memories for me and I thank it for having provided us with so many watery backdrops to our young , playful imagination,” David Staunton, Castlebar. [1]

This type of a walk would also draw more tourists to town. especially with links to Coole Park, Garryland, Kilmacduagh and Ballylee- More tourism equates to more jobs for the towns and more value for the town.

If you want to see the potential of what a public river amenity in Gort could like – What about this then? The convent gardens show the potential of what can be done around the river.

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The Convent Garden Gort

Decades in thought

River walks in Gort have been talked about for decades. Over 30 years ago, Church Street residents, including Damien McGrath and Josie McInerney sketched a vision of a river walk a picnic/family area close to laneway behind Supervalu and then expanding a walkway both north into bridge Street and south toward Big Hopes swimming area.

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Could we mirror the beautiful Convent park to the left hand side of the river?

Michael O’Grady also mentioned that 15-20 years ago,  having a walking, cycle path along the river was factored into many of the developments along they way (Supvervalu, Convent  development, Aldi) etc.

There is also potential on the other side of the river and linkage to Courtney’s Lane and up to the Lady Gregory hotel, Playground etc.

Many locals have also spoken about walks out Kinincha road and Pounds roads and beautiful (and long) walks/cycle paths crossing the river close to the Childrens graveyard also.

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A snapshot of the potential river walk between Kinincha and the Pound Road (With some of Gort’s Wild Swans!)

Sr. de Lourdes Fahy and Adrian Feeney have highlighted a wonderful walk which has becomes Gort’s Golden Mile, which won the Golden Mile competition run by Galway County Council and Galway Rural Development. This route is out the Kinincha road, by Gort River, swinging left into Ballynamantan and coming back out the Galway road the Gort side of the Coole Park Entrance.  Adrian Feeney highlighted the merits of Gort’s Golden Mile;

“Views stretch across the countryside into Gort lowlands and across to the Sliabh Aughty Mountains. The mid section of the mile consists of a green road. Hedgerow birds are abundant all along the road. A beautiful thatched cottage (Hallinan’s house) can be seen on the roadside; this was the miller’s house in the olden days. This is a beautiful road that can be utilised by all members of the community,” he said.

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Gorts Golden Mile – The route through Gort’s Golden Mile, along Gort River,  with Slieve Aughty Mountains in background and Ballynamantan lake in foreground

The Burren Lowlands group also has been looking into the potential of river walks in Gort and may facilitate their progress.

This list of routes could go on and on, as we cover more and more of South Galway.   There are some wonderful walks, and  cycle routes emerging and we’d like people to share their visions of some South Galway potential projects!

Current Plans (?)

The Galway County Countil  2013-2019 Gort Local area plan outlines accessible network of greenway linkages and amenities through the town. Here is the zoning (in Green) for these amenities and as Michael O’ Grady mentioned, many of the developments over the past 20 years may have had to leave provision in for these ammenties.

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Zoning in Gort – The Green in the centre is the Ammen

Objective CF9 – Amenity Network (refer to Maps 2A/2B)

“Support the establishment of an accessible network of greenway linkages and amenities that provide safe and attractive circulation routes for pedestrians and cyclists for the enjoyment and recreational use of the entire community. This network will include an amenity walking circular route along the Kinincha Road returning via the river bank to George‟s Street. The network will also link together community facilities, amenities and built heritage features in the Plan Area and surrounding areas. Galway County Council will also seek to promote the functioning of greenway networks as wildlife corridors and habitats to enhance biodiversity and the natural environment.”

Objective CF10 – Linear Park along the Cannahowna/Gort River (refer to Maps 2A/2B)

“Ensure that any development of lands along the Cannahowna/Gort River which may incorporate a linear park and amenity walkway is designed to avoid lands that are identified in flood risk areas associated with the river. The existing river, riparian vegetation and nearby tree lines should be retained as part of the park and any new development along the river will be required to be compatible with the aim of achieving good ecological status for the Cannahowna/Gort River as well as having a positive relationship with the park, including high quality streetscapes, overlooking development and active/responsive ground floor uses, where appropriate. This will include the lands zoned Open Space (OS) both north and south of the Gort Bridge and Town Centre (C1) located to the north and south of the Gort River in the vicinity of the Pound/Kinincha Roads and in adjacent to the Gort Railway station.”

What’s the plan then?  Galway County council seem to have have a good vision here for Gort w.r.t. the amenities – but where are with the 6 year objecives? how far have we progressed? 2019 is just around the corner!

Not only does the detailed plan for these amenities not exist – These amenities are now being threathen

Drowning the vision

There has been zero progress on the development of these Greenways/Amenities and in the past few months we have already seen this vision potentially under attack from misaligned proposed industrial development and vested interest.  The proposed building of a massive Biogas plant, that would be accessed from Gort would potentially bring 121 Heavy-Goods-Vehicles (Tankers) in through Gort town and contradicts the stated objectives of “safe and attractive circulation routes for pedestrians and cyclists” outlined in the Local Areal Plan.  (See –   A vision for Gort – The Slurry Capital of Ireland?)

The proposed development plan contradicts so many other objectives of the plan that Galway County Council, through the inital stages of approvals are tettering this plan over a garbage bin.  Only in the coming months will we see if they actually throw it in.

Will the overall amenity network/greenway linkages vision be threatened? Will Galway County Council be open to other developments that threaten this potential of these greenway linkages?

There are also concerns on how illegal dumping is being handled in some of these areas.

Action

Probably because of these threats, in recent weeks, I’ve never heard as many echos of Gort river walks, Greenways etc. and it is gaining a lot of momentum and therefore potential.  It’s through positive action that we can help protect and realize this vision of a several wonderful amenities for Gort and South Galway

  • Highlight awareness of the wonderful natural resource that surrounds us in South Galway
  • Organise groups, get support from local community and sketch out concept proposals – Look for some quick wins!
  • Do a Call-to-Action from our elected representatives – County Councillors,TDs and Galway County Council –  Get greenways for Gorgeous Gort!

The aim of this blog is to help raise awareness of the potential of a truly Gorgeous Gort and  help you to keep you informed of this progress as this vision is realised!

Thanks,

David Murray

Please share, leave a comment or join the ‘South Galway Vision’ Facebook page.  Please send on feedback, corrections etc snd I can amend the blog

References :

A vision for Gort – The Slurry Capital of Ireland?

I attended a public meeting last week (11th May 2018) where a local committee Gort Bio Gas Concern Group organised a public meeting to raise awareness of the impact of a proposed biogas plant in Gort.  The committee gave a professional presentation about their concerned and as people started to comment, the following was a recurring evolution of thought.

  1. Inital Optimism : When I first heard about the Biogas and renewable energy plant I thought – that’s interesting and positive and maybe it will be good for Gort and South Galway
  2. Disbelief : Now that I’ve heard the facts – this would be a disaster!
  3. Anger: Why is this being pushed into Gort! This is not the vision I have for Gort!

That word stuck in my head – Vision;  Many people mentioned it directly or alluded to it and it was clear that people have a vision of a better Gort . And it was clear that people are passionate about that vision – because when it was threatened – There was a strong defense!

Let’s quickly explore the threat!

The Biogas Plant

To put it simply the proposed Gort BioGas Plant is a mega plant for producing BioGas (CO2 and methane) and fertilizer from animal manure and other waste.  It’s a renewable energy and investing in projects such as these will help us meet our EU environmental targets.  Heavy Goods vehicles (HGV)/Tankers will ferry in animal manure and other waste and ferry out C02 and Methane)

The key issues with the proposed plant is:

  • Its scale and that fact that these HGVS will have to come into the town to deliver and distribute the material
  • The lack of alignment with Gort Local Area Plan
  • The health safety and Environment Impact of the plant
  • An amateurish Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR)

 

Scale

This is a mega-plant – It covers over 22 acres. It will have its own unique smell and Gort will get its first flame plume and it will be noisy. The stacks are 22m high and with a flame, it will be close to height of Gort Church!

profile

There will be 12 big tanks to hold the biogas materials again to scale:

map2.jpg

This plant would be one of the biggest of its kind in Ireland – making Gort the Slurry Capital of Ireland!

plan1

Location

The proposed plant is just 10m for Gort River which essentially connects to the key south Galway natural parks, environments, Special Areas of Conservation(5) and Specially protected areas (2)

The plant will down the Kinincha road which means that HGVs will be coming in through the town. Either from Motorway or Loughrea Rd, Ennis Rd or Tubber Rd. map1

Operation

  • This plant will operate 24/7 for 50 weeks of the year and will be closed for a 2 week maintenance period.
  • When  fully operational will have 20 staff.
  • Material will be delivered/distributed from 7am to 6pm, 7 days a week.

Traffic

 

truck

Sample Slurry Tanker

truck2

Sample CO2 Tanker

How Much?

Over 95,000 tonnes of slurry and waste will be delivered and over 150,000 tonnes of digestive (fertiliser) will be distributed.  CO2 and biomethane will also need to be distributed. This following table outlines the estimated daily maximum HGV loads.

traffic

If you were standing a LIDL throughout the day then a HGV/Tanker would pass you 242 (121*2) times a day on average one every 2 minutes 43 seconds.

That’s the average and unfortunately you can’t plan for even traffic so we can assume that at some parts of the day – it’s a truck a minute! Also the numbers are not rules they are estimates and the estimates can be wrong.

From where?

The plan assumes (incorrectly) that traffic will come in off the motorway and avoid centre of town.  For instance, take a journey from a pig farm in Tipperary (Borris Pedigree Pigs Ltd, Inane Roscrea Co. Tipperary)

map3.JPG

The fastest time shown is 1 hr 20 minutes but is 136km. The shortest route (secondary routes) is 1hr 22 minutes but is only 83.8km from the proposed site so in commercial terms this could be the most efficient and will bring the HGV through Gort Town Centre

  • Pigs Ireland, Dunsallagh West Miltown Malbay V95 W0F2 Co. Clare : Shortest route = 53 km direct to Crowe St
  • Blueball Pig Farm, Tullamore co. Offaly : Shortest Route 104km direct to Crowe Street (From Loughrea road) -132km by motorway
  • Sharragh Pig Farm, Sharragh Co Tipperary: 63km, 1hr 5mins.

The road through Derrybrien to could become the Slurry Super Highway.

Road Safety Audit

As part of the impact assessment, a road safety audit has to be completed (Traffic counts, number of previous collisions etc) –  however, the report is factually incorrect. It states that only one collision resulting in a minor injury was reported on the R380 (Formally N18)  in 2007. However a 30 second check (Thank to Bryan Brennan on the tip!) on the actual database referenced  http://www.rsa.ie/RSA/Road-Safety/Our-Research/Collision-Statistics/Ireland-Road-Collisions/ tells a different story with just on the R380

  • 1 collision with 1 Fatality
  • 2 collisions with 3 serious casualties
  • 11 Collisions with minor accidents

And these are supposed to be the experts that are compiling these reports!

Lack of Alignment with Gort Local Area Plan

Galway County Council have developed the Gort Local Area Plan (LAP) 2013-2019, a visionary document that outlines a strategy for development ( http://www.galway.ie/en/media/Gort%20Local%20Area%20Plan%202013-2019.pdf) .  It is a land use plan and overall strategy for the development of Gort over the period 2013-2019. In general, it helps to guide the local authority on how to plan for suggested form of development to ensure it will be compatible with the policies and objectives for the specific zones.

The proposed site is not in the Local Area Plan and is currently zoned for agricultural use and therefore it not compatible with the LAP.

The site however does have an impact on Gort’s objectives as it brings traffic to within 160m of the town centre and impacts directly on objectives. The following is a reasonable assessment on how the proposed Biogas plant impacts the Gort LAP Strategy.

gort lap.JPG

Trampling over the plan e.g. Tourism

THe LAP States

“Tourism is an important element of Gort‟s local economy and is a sector that has the potential for further growth. The cultural, built and natural heritage of the town and significant local tourist amenities such as Coole Park, Thoor Ballylee, Kilmacduagh monastic settlement and the town‟s proximity to the Burren are important tourist attractions and opportunities for further tourism development, which in turn can help to ensure the appropriate management and protection of Gort‟s local heritage and amenities.”

And it rightly captures this as part of the Economic Objective ED4:

Tourism Development (refer to Maps 2A/2B) Encourage and facilitate the sustainable development of the tourism potential of Gort and its environs in a manner that respects, builds on, protects and enhances the cultural, built and natural heritage of the town and the local amenities within the Plan Area. Key projects and initiatives that will be supported will include:

  1. Support the sustainable development of a river walkway and a linear park including recreational facilities and activities that will benefit the local community and visitors to the area and enhance the tourism infrastructure in an environmentally sustainable manner that recognises the Water Framework Directive, water quality and Natura 2000 conservation management objectives for the Coole-Garryland Complex and associated protected species including otter and bat species.
  2. Investigate the provision of a tourist/information centre within the town centre.

Objective TI 24– Walkways (refer to Specific Objectives Maps 2A/2B) Provide a walkway along the Cannahowna/Gort River including the Kinincha and Pound Road in a sustainable manner where possible. Regard should be had to the protection of Otters and Otter breeding sites and resting places along the proposed river walk.

The maps show a Riverwalk titled ‘Provide a walkway along the Kinincha and Pound Road’

gort river walk.JPG

Brilliant plan!  …. but why are we then looking at slapping a massive Biogas plant there – this completely contradicts the objectives!

Oh and here are two more to note:

  • Objective TI4 – Walking : Facilitate the improvement of the pedestrian environment and network so that it is safe and accessible to all through the provision of the necessary infrastructure such as footpaths, lighting, pedestrian crossings, traffic calmed streets etc. New developments shall promote and prioritise walking, shall be permeable, adequately linked and connected to neighbouring areas, the town centre and train station, recreational, educational and employment destinations and shall adhere to the principles contained within the national policy document Smarter Travel: A Sustainable Transport Future – A New Transport Policy for Ireland 2009-2020 (and any updated/superseding document). Galway County Council will ensure that new lighting in sensitive areas, such as close to water-bodies or stands of broadleaved trees, will be sensitively designed so as to avoid impacts on foraging bats and other nocturnal wildlife.

Comment : Proposed Biogas plant is a new development that will not promote or prioritise walking. It will detract from it and as such is at odds with this objective.

  • Objective TI5 – Cycling Facilitate the improvement of the cycling environment and network so that it is safe and accessible through adequate traffic management and the provision of the necessary infrastructure, such as surface treatment, junction treatment, traffic calmed streets, cycle track/s, cycle lane/s, lighting, road crossings, etc. New developments shall promote and prioritise cycling, shall be permeable, adequately linked and connected to neighbouring areas, the town centre and train station, recreational, educational and employment destinations and shall adhere to the principles contained within the national policy documents Smarter Travel: A Sustainable Transport Future – A New Transport Policy for Ireland 2009-2020 and the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009-2020 (and any updated/superseding documents).

Comment : Proposed Biogas plant is a new development that will not promote or prioritise cycling. It will detract from it and as such is at odds with this objective

Health , Safety and Environment Impact

Hazardous Material

A plant this size handles a significant amount of bio-hazardous waste – cattle slurry – pig slurry (phew!) and other waste – you can dream the worst case scenario here – from mouldy bread to blood!  It also produces Hydrogen Sulphide, Ammonia and other toxic substances which are extremely noxious. These can contaminate the air and be potentially washed into the water-courses.  Some of the dangers are explained here.

Explosions : Methane, approximately 60% of biogas, forms explosive mixtures in air. If biogas is diluted between 10% and 30% with air, there is an explosion hazard.

Asphyxiation  : Asphyxiation from biogas is a concern in an enclosed space where manure is stored. Even open-topped manure pits can generate methane at a sufficient rate to push out the air above the manure and render the space oxygen-deficient. Guidelines are never enter a facility where manure is stored or where there is a suspected biogas leak as natural ventilation cannot be trusted to dilute the explosion hazard sufficiently.

Disease : Animal manure contains bacteria, viruses and, possibly, parasites. It is recommended to keep the digester facility clean to reduce disease hazards as well as the spread of odors and fly populations in the digester facility.

Traffic

An estimated 242 HGV one-way journeys will be made through Gort in an 11 hour period and the Impact assessment report (EIAR) states under ‘Traffic and transport’ section “no obvious preliminary issues identified” – Not, I’m not making this up – it actually says that!

Environment

This will no doubt be the nail in the coffin of this plan.  The proposed plant is just 10m from Gort river and if you’ve read report on the SouthGalwayFlood blog it means that this is directly connected with Kiltartan river, Coole Park, Caherglassaun, Cahermore and Galway bay!  Their EIAR does not address this correctly.

It even quotes if there was an accident that “any such events, although extremely unlikely, would result in impacts … that have the potential to be catastrophic!”

These type of impact assessments have been wrong before – South Galway has already suffered an environmental disaster associated with clean renewable energy with the Derrybrien Windfarm landslide, and this has the potential to be much worse than that!

Flooding

To be clear – the site itself has never flooded, however, the only access road to the proposed development has a history of flooding. According to the Gort CFRAM report ‘the extent of the 2009 flooding was primarily located with the two main roads affected being Crowe Street and Kinincha Road. The Kinincha Road also flooded in 2009 and is modelled as flooding slightly in the 10% design event and much more extensively in larger design events.

The EIAR states that  there is potential for the site to be completely severed based on CFRAM report.  However the CFRAM report also states on its calculations….

  • To reduce uncertainty a model incorporating groundwater and surface flows may be required, however this would present significant technical challenges and is beyond the scope of the current work.
  • How well this translates from the calibration to design events is unknown, leading to low confidence in the design event flood outlines downstream of Gort Bridge.

And yes, the Biogas Plant is downstream of Gort.  In other words the flooding estimate are useless without the proper modelling.

These stated limitations triggers the precautionary principle under which states there must be clear impact assessment and if you can’t prove there is no impact, assume there is.  Therefore this plan unacceptable.

Environmental Report

Where to start – this is full of mistakes, misguidance, omissions, incorrect assumptions and just bad research.

  • There is a lot of incorrect detail on SACs, SPAS and connectivity to the site. They leave out some SPAs/SACs
  • Traffic – They just analysed traffic on 1 day – Some Tue in Feb I think! The report contradicts itself on traffic numbers.
  • They make incorrect assumptions around use of M18 as being the most efficient way to deliver foodstuffs.
  • The journey times and durations are incorrect
  • Incorrect assumptions made on flooding on the back of the CFRAM report
  • Based on the above factors the Site justification is flawed
  • Incorrect staffing levels
  • It assumes ‘former activity at the site’ was ok (meat plant) and compares it favorably  against this although it’s 5 times bigger with 20x more traffic.
  • It doesn’t mention alignment with Gort Local Area plan

 

Public Representatives

Finally we get to our public representatives!  Oh – this is a strange one.  For whatever reasons, our County Councillors have come out vehemently in support of this or are sitting on the fence. According to Councillor Gerry Finnerty, he reported in the Connacht Tribune:

“There is very little negativity to this proposal in Gort. As far as I am concerned it is a very acceptable and safe development for the town that would provide a major economic boost.  It is a major investment in the town and there are no major objections to it in Gort.

He also stated on the public information night that he talked to lots of people about this.

One quote back on this was “Very sad local reps did not inform people..listen to people and had a word”  

This proposed biogas plant makes toilet-paper of the Gort Local Area Plan so why are our County Councillors not at least coming out in defence of it – but rather appear mildly or full supportive of it? Am I missing something?

I’m not here to beat up on our County Councillors but while they are in focus it would be interesting to get an update on how far Galway County Council is with its 2013-2019 objective TI24 – The proposed riverwalk? Please ask them if you see them  🙂

I would like to thank our real public representatives on the night – the Gort Biogas concerned citizens committee – (Karen O Neill, Kieran O Donnell, Bryan Brennan, Pierce Counahan, Brent Mostert) ye did a great job bring the awareness of this potential disaster to light.

What next ?

Nothing else for it .. Please raise objections in writing  to Galway County Council before 29th May! There is a clinic on objecting in Gort this evening 7-9 in Sullivans hotel.

 

Not our vision

A final point is that many people in that public meeting town indicated that Gort as part of a South Galway Slurry Centre is not the vision that many people have for South Galway.

We live in a beautiful area in South Galway, we have great people in Gort and with the right combined vision – there is huge potential to make Gort an even more wonderful place to live! We also have to protect it from this type of nonsense.

David Murray

 

A vision for South Galway

DJI_0063.JPG

Kilmacduagh at Sunset : David Murray

Hello!  This blog site has been triggered by a series of unfortunate events (some of which  will soon become apparent ) and so it’s time to get it going.

We live in a beautiful part of the world and if you are from or living in South Galway you can probably recognise that there is such potential to develop this place even more.  From creating better places to work, to shop,  to eat , to adding more recreational activities.

I’ve heard people talking about this a lot in the past two weeks and realise that many people have vibrant but different visions for Gort – so maybe we can put these down and see what resonates.  Also it will help us identify what is NOT a vision for Gort. (you’ll see in the upcoming blog!)

This is where will hopefully can  share some aspects of what we want to see long  or short term in our communities.

regards,

David Murray