Inspector's Report Void; Motorway Decision Must be Overturned - Researcher
The An Bord Pleanala Inspector's Report into the proposed M17 Rathmorrissy to Tuam motorway scheme is severely flawed and contravenes EU legislation on Environmental Impact Assessment, independent sustainable transport researcher and campaigner Brian Guckian has stated.
For Release 5/5/2009
Mr. Guckian, who carries out research and development into sustainable transport nationally and who has been involved in campaigns against a number of road schemes including the M3 in Meath, the Outer Bypass in Galway city and the N25 in New Ross, has analysed the report used by the Board to give permission for the scheme on March 6th last and said that it did not comply with the provisions of the EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).
He found that the Inspector had not carried out an objective assessment of the proposal, nor had he taken account of alternative, sustainable transport modes such as rail, coach and bus, as implied in the provisions of the Directive.
The Inspector had been negligent in failing to acknowledge that large traffic volumes were a problem that needed to be tackled at source, not simply catered for by providing additional roadspace.
Mr. Guckian said he had been disturbed by the very poor quality of the Inspector's report, particularly as there had been no reference to national sustainable transport, energy and development policies, and alternatives had not been properly assessed.
It had also been found that the scheme would not reduce CO2 emissions, contrary to national policy on climate change, yet the Inspector had recommended it should proceed regardless.
On the basis of the inadequate Inspector's Report, the Board's decision to grant permission for the proposed scheme was unsafe and had to be overturned. The CPOs for the proposed scheme were also invalid as the process leading to their approval had been found to be seriously deficient.
Mr. Guckian said that traffic volumes on the existing Galway - Tuam corridor could be reduced from around 24,000 vehicles per day to less than 10,000 per day if high-quality, high-frequency coach and rail transport was introduced along with local job creation policies to reduce commuting to and from the city.
This would avoid unsustainable and unacceptable new road construction and permit significant in-line improvements to the existing N17, including a bypass of Claregalway and implementation of a more sustainable road type such as a Type 3 Dual Carriageway. However, this responsible and progressive approach had been ignored in the planning process for the M17.
Mr. Guckian stressed that there were no economic advantages to road-building given what was now known about the enormous potential costs of climate change arising from runaway CO2 emissions from transport, most of which were from unsustainable road-based modes such as car and HGV, and the costs of oil dependency. He said that businesses in the region needed education in relation to sustainable, energy-efficient transport as they seemed to be stuck with a 1960s view of untrammelled road-building solving transport problems and allegedly stimulating economic development.
Instead, motorways were in reality an outmoded, negative form of infrastructure with huge downstream energy and environmental costs, and genuine economic development was actually about innovation, productivity, localisation and sustainable transportation, among other factors.
Mr. Guckian said he was concerned about the ongoing enthusiasm of Galway Co. Council for inappropriate and unsustainable US-style highways, and rather than being in thrall to this redundant and inappropriate thinking from the 1960s, the Council should instead be taking its cue from best practice in contemporary sustainable transport and community development as seen in countries like Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, Germany, France and Spain.
The Atlantic Road Corridor did not have to be to motorway specification and in September 2008 a Representation was made to the Minister for Transport to have it re-designated as a model, combined road and rail Sustainable Transport Corridor.
People also had to be fully involved in the planning of sustainable transport in their communities rather than being presented with a fait accompli by council roads engineers, a practice which was contrary to the EIA Directive as well as the UN Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, to which Ireland was a signatory.
Mr. Guckian welcomed the fact that Judicial Review proceedings were currently underway in the related Galway City Outer Bypass case which featured similar failures in its environmental assessment, increasing CO2 emissions and exacerbating rather than reducing traffic congestion. However, Judicial Review was not generally available to Irish Citizens due to the prohibitive costs involved, which was also contrary to Article 10(a) of the EIA Directive.
The M17 would have to be withdrawn via Ministerial or other intervention in the absence of Judicial Review proceedings, and disconnected from the separate N18 Gort to Oranmore scheme.
He further stated he was seeking a stay on all road scheme approvals pending a statutory inquiry into the operations of An Bord Pleanala as they had rarely acted impartially or satisfactorily in the area of road construction scheme assessment. A study carried out jointly by the Dublin-based sustainable development organisation FEASTA and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2006 had found very serious shortcomings in the Board's assessment and decision-making processes.
It was also not widely known that the current National Development Plan (NDP) was also contrary to EU law as it had not fulfilled requirements for public participation and environmental assessment as set out in the EU Directive on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).
Mr. Guckian indicated that local people, including those affected by the invalid CPO process, could Petition the European Parliament regarding the M17.
Contact: Brian Guckian 087 9140105 email@example.com