This article, by Dominic Monaghan, was first published in The Tuam Herald June 19 2024  

I would like to comment on the important greenfield site in Athenry town, known locally as ‘Leonard’s Lawn’ in the past, but best known today as ‘The Athenry House’ site in reference to the   numerous development-led planning applications that were submitted in recent years. From a national planning perspective this greenfield site tells a unique story as the site spans the period 1996 to 2011 – the period of the roaring naughties (‘Celtic Tiger’) and the subsequent bust in September 2008. 1996 is generally considered to be the year it all began (Frank McDonald/James Nix, ‘Chaos at the Crossroads’, 2005).

For twenty- six years (1998) I have been centrally involved in the various planning applications for this site which involved three development companies: King Estates Ltd 1998 – 2000, Oyster Homes Ltd 2004 – 2008 and Ghost Zapper Ltd 2018 – 2023. I want to explain why I got involved and where the planning process is currently at in relation to this site. I have never been involved, either as an individual or as part of a group, in any other third party planning submissions except those which apply to the Athenry House site. I was totally independent. My involvement in this site is complete.

I was raised in Athenry town and lived all my youth at the only farming residence with a significant boundary wall next to the Athenry House site. I’ve had a deep attachment to Athenry House since my childhood and the wonderful parkland that surrounds it. The Clarin river flows in a southerly direction through the site dividing it into two parts – the east side and the west side (Fig. 1). All of the Athenry House grounds and the neighbouring residence – Riversdale House and lands, were zoned ‘agricultural’ in the early Athenry Development Plans. In 1998 the Athenry House site acquired the zoning definition ‘Commercial/Residential’. In 2004 it was re-zoned C2 (Commercial/Mixed Use).

It was a long arduous campaign involving the following: eight development-led planning applications (three were withdrawn) lodged with The Planning Department of Galway County Council, three appeals to An Bord Pleanála (ABP) / An Coimisiún Pleanála, and two ABP oral hearings – 2006 and 2022: two oral hearings for the same site is extremely rare. At the end of this campaign a number of important objectives were achieved, most significantly by far, the de-zoning of the Athenry House lands east of the river (Fig.1) to ‘Open Space/Recreational and Amenity’ in 2023 – a wise, practical and forward-thinking decision by our local planning authority and one which ought to be welcomed by the people of Athenry and our locally elected county council representatives.

Ideally, I would have preferred if all the lands were designated Open Space/Recreational & Amenity including the lands belonging to Riversdale House, my home place. Combined, it would have made a great ‘Central Park’ for Athenry – a wonderful setting for a parkland, which indeed it originally was, within a rapidly expanding town – a town very much in favour with large multi-national companies like Dexcom (Fig.2). Notwithstanding, I am content with the Planning Department’s decision to designate the east side ‘Open Space/ Recreational & Amenity’(zone OS), a very welcome inclusion in the recently adopted ‘Athenry Local Area Plan 2024-2030’.

The Ghost Zapper Ltd. (Comer Group Ireland) era.          

The most recent planning application – 21/2281 (Ghost Zapper Ltd. aka The Comer Group) was refused planning permission in April 2022 by Galway County Council Planning Department and by ABP (ABP-313449-22) in November 2023. As of June 2024, no active planning application has been lodged for this site. Regarding the potential development of the Athenry House site on the west side, I believe a developer will apply in the future. I hope it is a developer who values historical remains! The site is zoned C2 (Commercial/Mixed Use) in the ‘Athenry Local Area Plan 2024-2030’. I think development on the west side may be acceptable for the following reasons –

* Nobody wants to be looking at Athenry House in its present state (Fig.3). It could be considered a victim of un-intended damage in the planning process of this site. It needs to be restored and functional again. The damage, while regrettable, is fully repairable (Peter Cox – Carrig Conservation, pers. comm. 2006). Similar demense houses were in ruins for much longer and were successfully restored. Many local groups such as ‘Friends of Athenry House’ have put forward very good ideas for its usage. Galway County Council Planning Department in association with the development company’s design team will play a large part in its design, restoration and functionality. Great opportunities exist for Athenry House and its adjacent coach house building, both of which were scandalously named for demolition by Ghost Zapper Ltd in its 2021 planning application 21/2281.

* If you look closely at the layout of the existing town within the historic town wall (Fig.4), there is a natural extension of the urban town setting moving southwards. Why this urban expansion did not take place in earlier times is associated with a number of theories, mostly speculative. These are: the early establishment of the manor house and associated lands, the site of a fever hospital /a leper compound, a few ghostly sightings and a flood plain – there is some evidence to suggest that this is not the original channel that the Clarin river flowed through. The more plausible explanation is that the town simply did not expand beyond what we see today (Prof. Etienne Rynne). There is evidence that an inner town wall may have existed to protect a smaller less ambitious settlement area, hence the term ‘town walls’ (Dr. John Bradley – pers. comm. ’06).
 
 * This is a unique opportunity to create a truly 21st century urban development that could showcase all that is good in modern architectural design, something that is not available to other towns in western Europe who cannot work off a blank (greenfield) canvass. If designed properly it should attract thousands of visitors a year to Athenry to view the internationally award winning architectural design that is ‘New Quarter’, Athenry. The site comprises a considerable area inside the circuit of the historic town wall (Figs. 1 & 4). The sustainable-living goals (carbon neutral) and modern design statements are enormous here!


* We Athenrians are privileged to live in a very special town immortalised in film/book (‘Flight of the Doves’ – Ralph Nelson/Walter Macken), poetry (Padraic Fallon), song (Pete St John) and steeped in historical remains! Every town should be allowed to expand and grow residentially and commercially according to the times. Athenry is no different. I have no doubt that our hard-working local planning authority, whilst encouraging local participation in its design layout, will ensure a 21st century development that will be the envy of similar historic towns throughout Ireland, the UK and Europe. The historic town, its people and its ‘fields’ deserve no less!

* The site development, as proposed in the most recent planning application – 21/2281, has just one access route at Swan Gate for vehicular traffic both inbound and outbound, sharing the same road with Aldi via the Swan Gate car park. Historical evidence suggests that an access point did exist towards the southern end of the site via the present opening at the Spittal Gate (site of). It’s unlikely that this southern access option will be available anytime soon and even if it is it will be of limited value as the opening is extremely narrow, allowing for a one-way vehicular system to operate. Is there a greener solution that the design team could look at? This is the ideal site to look for a cleaner, greener option with a little bit of ingenuity and foresight!

In Conclusion

While some sub-surface evidence does exist for very limited and scattered building remains on the west side, no archaeological evidence to create a streetscape to tie in with the rest of the town exists (Dominic Delany, Archaeologist – pers. comm. 2008). The Athenry House site, in my opinion, requires a lot more scholarly attention and academic thought concerning the period prior to the construction of Athenry House. This aspect has been neglected and needs further discussion. It would help greatly if the archaeological excavation findings and report (2007) were more readily accessible locally! The report remains unpublished.

Regarding An Bord Pleanála – ABP/An Coimisiún Pleanála, I have grave reservations in that body acting on local planning issues. In my experience it is not tuned in locally and some of its decisions border on the bizarre. The oral hearing in October 2022 was poorly chaired; it was a disaster. It needs to concentrate on strategic projects of national and regional importance. Its pre-2008 celtic tiger role as a puppet for rubber-stamping central government housing policy is no longer relevant. Our local planning authority process can look after that with the consultative urban Local Area Plans.

Finally, for anybody who wishes to view my submissions to Galway County Council Planning Department they can do so by logging on to the Galway County Council website at: www.galway.ie/planning, and putting in the relevant planning file numbers 20/1384 or 21/2281. My submissions are more readily accessible online via Finbarr O’ Regan’s excellent local history portal, dedicated to matters concerning Athenry, at www.athenry.org. My submission to An Bord Pleanála( ABP-313449-22) is also available to access via the athenry.org website. My ABP submission gives a more comprehensive account of why I pursued this course.

List of Figures:

Fig.1: Plan of the ‘Athenry House’ site layout with the Clarin river dividing the site into a west side (C2: Commercial/Mixed Use) and an east side (OS: Open Space/Recreational & Amenity).  Courtesy: Ordnance Survey, Dublin. Ireland.

Fig.2: A sign at the ‘Athenry Roundabout’, off the M6 motorway, erected in February this year welcoming Dexcom (misspelt on sign) to Athenry. It was taken down a few days later.

Fig.3: Athenry House (feature photo) as seen from the Swan Gate car park. The 19th century stable building, to the left in the photo, was pencilled in for demolition by Ghost Zapper in 2021. The early 1960s bungalow, between Athenry House and the stable, is to be demolished.

Fig.4: Map of Athenry town showing the present day residential/commercial development (red).

Click on the author’s name below for more of his articles!

Programme – March 13 – 16, 1981
Friday, 13th March:
5.00 a.m.: Depart from The Square, Athenry by Coach.
10.00 a.m.: Check in at Dublin Airport.
11.00 a.m.: Depart from Dublin Airport.
12.30 p.m.: Arrive Heathrow Airport, London.
1.00 p.m.: Depart for Ivanhoe Hotel by Coach.
Rest of Evening Free.
Saturday, 14th:
1.00 p.m.: Depart for Match. Luton Town v Bristol Rovers.
Meet the players after match.
Sunday, 15th:
1.00 p.m.: Match v Elgin Allstars.
Reception after match.
Monday, 16th:
FREE DAY
9.00 p.m.: Depart from London Airport.

Tony Grealish

The move of Tony Grealish from Orient to Luton Town caused one or two eyebrows to be raised. After all, weren’t both similar-type clubs toiling away in the second division with attendances and incomes averaging roughly the same.

“I wanted a change badly. I was determined to move on,” stated Tony whose game has blossomed considerably at his new club and also on the international front since the switch. “My contract had ended and I desperately wanted new surroundings. I had spoken with Luton manager David Pleat and was impressed by his sincerity. He was offering me a four year contract with good terms.”
He left many fond memories at Orient — a homely place with no snobbery at all -and for all his loyalty and endeavours had just a tankard to take away – that was for second place in the Anglo-Scottish Cup one season.

“George Petchey and Terry Long were the men who helped me” recalled Tony. “I was a bit wild when younger. I was up and coming and I thought I knew it all. I used to disagree with George but he was always proved right in the end. It was on his advice that I choose Ireland after I had been included first of all in England in a Youth competition in the Canaries, but then had to cry off.
“I play the centre of midfield for Luton. I’m the ball winner, Alan West and Ricky Hill are the ball players. I’m not known as the bloke who takes people on and goes past them. My game is to win it, tackle for it, shoot or lay it off.

I’ve slowly got more confident, well everyone keeps telling me that. I imagineif I had to I could take more responsibility.”

Aware of the emergence of a larger international squad from which to choose –  “many lads now at the right age together” – he himself honestly harbours nagging fears of not being included and is a little wary of the recent praise he’s been getting. “People keep saying I’m getting established, but I’m not too sure on that yet. What happens when all the blokes are fit? It’s down to me to win a regular spot, that is my one big aim regarding the Irish team.”

Elgin All Stars

Formed I974-75

Chairman: Noel Dunning

Secretary: Michael Morrison

Treasurer: Colin Morgan

Trainer & Manager: Brian Grealish

Honours:
Div. 3: 1978-79 Winners Div. 2: 1979-80 Winners
Div. 1: 1980-81 Winners Also Intermediate Cup Semi-Finalists 1979-80
Elgin All Stars Panel: Des Commings, Mick James, Paul Daciuk, Steve Summers, Steve Kendall, Mick Barry, Terry Dee, Gary Purcell, Colin Morgan, John Brennan, John Christie, Tom McMahon, Mick Morrisson, Ian Wise, Paul Smith, John Kilbride.

Tony Grealish also played with Elgin All Stars.

ATHENRY A.F.C.
Chairman.” Paddy Forde
Secretary: Peter Gilhooley
Treasurer: Michael Morrissey

Athenry A.F.C. wish to thank all who have helped to produce this programme
and all who have sponsored advertisements.

We would especially like to thank Mrs. Nora Grealish for all her help in
organising the tour.

See Also – Athenry Association Football Club 1971 to 1981

Check out – Athenry Football Club Website

Athenry Sewerage Works Contract Signed

I am very pleased to report that Galway County Council has signed contracts with Response Ltd., a major Civil Engineering firm, for work at the Athenry Plant. The work will cost €21.3 million approximately, and should be completed by year end. The measures will increase capacity of the Plant from 3,500 to 6,000 population and get rid of the smells, which have dogged the town in recent times.

Prospect Roundabout – Still no Response

Despite contact on a weekly basis by the County Council Roads Dept., there is still no response to the situation of the half-built roundabout at Prospect from the Minister for the Environment.

The decision on how to proceed with the building of the junction lies with the Minister Mr. John Gormally because it impacts on a National Monument, the Town Wall, part of which was uncovered during the building work.

The Reports and files from the County Council and the developer of the adjacent site have been with the Minister since September 2007 without response, so we are now rapidly approaching the first anniversary of what was supposed to be a very temporary solution.

The increase in traffic due to N6 construction has made the situation much worse and we now have the prospect of holding Farmfest 2008 in Mellows College with up to 20,000 visitors on June 20th and this vital junction and entrance to the town unfinished.

I would call on anyone who has the ear of the Minister to urge him to make a decision on a way forward as soon as possible in order to hasten a solution. The delay is very frustrating for residents of the area and road users alike and cannot continue as it is.

Further Development on Car parks

Galway County Council expects to move its planning application for the Backlawn Car Park immediately with a final decision expected at its July meeting. This will allow work to begin immediately afterwards and the Car park should be ready for use by October.

I expect two applications to be made for the development of two privately operated public carparks in the coming week. These will, if successful, provide approximately 250 spaces on a temporary basis in the town and should bridge the gap until the permanent council car parks are ready. These measures will allow off-street parking and free-up spaces for shoppers and visitors to the town.

Pedestrian Crossing

Athenry has been approved for a pedestrian crossing under disability funding from the County Council. The most likely location is the Tuam Rd. / Monivea Rd. outside the Arch. I will be pressing for further sites going forward, especially at areas like the Credit Union, Gift Centre / Hop Inn and the Post Office.

This Article was first published in East Galway News and Views, June 2008

Pay and Display

The Roads department of the County Council has decided to introduce Pay and Display parking this week in Athenry. As most readers will know the machines were installed about 2 years ago but due to the absence of a long-term car park I asked them to delay its introduction.

Due to the recent decision to bring forward the building of a car park at the Backlawn (which will start soon) and the decision by two private operators to open car parks at Cross St. and Caheroyan Road, which will cater for parking in the meantime, the Roads Department have now acted.

On street parking, which has become almost impossible to find, will now be much more available as the maximum stay will be 2 hours, thus ensuring a regular turnover of cars. It will be possible to park for 15 minutes for 20 cents, which will suit many shoppers.

There has been concern among day parkers at the apparent lack of spaces but, in the last few days, the Cross St. car park (opposite the Newpark Hotel) has made spaces available at a daily rate.

Athenry is the fourth town in the county to have Pay and Display and Gort will follow in a couple of weeks. Part of the funds raised will be spent in improvements around the town. No one likes to pay for parking but we all like to get a space when we need one.

Unfortunately, that means that we have to pay and if it helps traffic and business in Athenry then that’s some compensation.

Church Car Park

As part of the Pay and Display scheme, a lease has been agreed between the Athenry Parish Finance Committee and the County Council for the Church Car Park. This will ensure that the car park will be a short term one (maximum stay 2 hours) and as a result will not be filled by train commuters all day. Flexibility has been agreed around Church Services, which means that church goers can park for daily Mass, funerals and weddings for a reasonable length of time without paying.

Raheen Link Road

Work is about to commence on the final section of the long awaited Raheen link road from the Byrne-Mech road across to the Ballygurrane Rd., where the new housing estate is located. This will be an invaluable road allowing traffic to access the town from the Cashla / Castle Lambert direction without going over the Ennis Bridge and through the town. It will also allow traffic from the Tuam Road / Raheen Road area access the Raheen Woods Hotel and the Galway Road without going through the town.

At Mondays Council meeting we approved a request for €l00,000 towards the cost, which l expect will be granted by the Department of Transport. I’m delighted that this road is finally a reality after almost a 20 year wait.

Flooding at Clarin Crescent and Park Road

Flood relief work continues at the entrance to Clarin Crescent, which has suffered greatly in the recent heavy rain. The Council has allocated approximately €25,000 towards the work followingrepresentations to me from local residents. I hope this solves the problem, which has proved very difficult over the last number of years.

As part of the reconstruction work just completed on the Tuam Road at Park the flooding which occurred there regularly has been relieved.

There are other locations around the area notably at Kingsland, Gortnahown, Raheen and Ballygurrane near the level crossing, which need attention and I expect some movement on some of these in the coming weeks.

This Article was first published in East Galway News and Views, October 2008

Backlawn Car Park to get Go- Ahead

Planning permission for the Backlawn Car Park looks certain to be granted by my colleagues and I at the July 1st Meeting of the County Council. This will allow work to begin immediately on the car park, which will provide 146 spaces including 7 disabled spaces.

This will be the end of a long campaign by a number of us, especially the Community Council, who identified this site as ideal for a car park about 10 years ago and worked since to get this result. It will serve two important functions. Firstly, this number of long term pay and display spaces, so close to the centre of the town, will be a great boost to people who work in the town and who can now park at low cost and for people who wish to do business in the town and, secondly for patrons of Kenny Park on match days who now have the alternative to parking on the street. In addition, the 7 disabled spaces in the car park will give much needed space for wheelchair users who regularly attend matches.

The entrance to the car park will be beside the Ball-alley and work should be completed by early autumn.

Planned Improvements for Bridges

I am pleased to write that following strong representations by me to the Roads Department of Galway Co. Co. and following negotiations between the Roads Department and Iarnród Éireann plans are now being drawn up to make the major safety improvements to the Ennis Bridge, on the Galway Road at Prospect and the Monivea Road Bridge.

I expect these improvements will greatly improve pedestrian safety but we will have to wait until the final plans are released to see the final nature of the works proposed. The approaches to the Ennis Bridge in particular have deteriorated to a shocking degree as a result of extra heavy traffic due to the M6 construction.

The lack of a footpath on the Monivea Road Bridge has meant it is almost impossible to access the town on foot and there have been many “near misses” there over the years.

I will continue to ensure the best possible design for the work at these locations. The success of the Tuam Road bridge improvements shows what can be achieved.

M6 Construction

As a Public Representative I am totally frustrated by the lack of response to complaints from all concerned on the construction of the new M6. I have been making representations for months to both the road contractors [N6 Concession] and the NRA and while there is a lot of talk in response there is very little action. We deserve better, especially residents in the area, but all we have got is continued aggressive behaviour from lorry drivers and the deaf ear from the road builders. It looks as if they are determined to push ahead on their terms no matter what local feeling is.

I am determined to ensure a complete reconstruction of the roads destroyed during the project and I think we would all welcome a strong Road Safety campaign by the authorities over the next few months until the worst of the traffic is over.

This Article was first published in East Galway News and Views, August 2008

Prospect Roundabout-Latest Episode

We’re now facing into the second winter with a temporary roundabout at Prospect. We also have a half finished green area, drains and gullies, which are ineffective and a danger to traffic and last but not least a deteriorating portion of a National Monument half covered by a sheet of plastic. However, there is movement (no progress but some movement!).

Recently, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, who has final say on the future of the junction, requested Galway County Council to submit a plan for traffic lights for the area. It would seem that the Department now favours lights rather than the original roundabout. No final decision has yet been made.

Wall and Footpath improvement at Prospect

The local Community Employment Scheme in conjunction with Galway County Council have developed a plan for the replacement of the wall leading from the Swangate junction towards the new development near Joyces on the Town Wall side of the road i.e. the wall opposite the Mart.

Thanks to the very generous agreement from Frank and Mary Curran, it is now proposed to replace the wall and allow room for a footpath as well using the FÁS / CES Scheme. Galway Co. Co. has agreed to provide the footpath at this location. The work will improve the links between the shopping centre and the town and improve the view of the Town Wall and approach to the town.

Junction improvements at Derrydonnell

Following representations, the Oranmore engineering office of Galway Co. Co. has agreed to undertake some improvements at the Derrydonnell junction. The grass margin at the approach to the T junction, which has led to a dangerous situation at the road edge will now be filled with gravel to road level making it far safer for traffic.

I have asked for a slip road to be built to facilitate traffic turning left towards Craughwell but the National Roads Authority has, on a number of occasions, refused on the grounds of road safety. I will continue to pursue these requests, especially in the context of the new N6 taking much of the traffic off the existing Dublin Road.

Ennis Bridge

I have asked the Roads Section to continue their efforts and negotiations with Iarnród Eireann regarding the badly needed improvements at the Ennis Bridge at Prospect, which is being demolished piece by piece by the huge volume of heavy traffic using it and meeting on it. Good progress is being made in these discussions and I’m confident a major refurbishment is imminent.

Link Road at Raheen

By the time you read this, I expect work will have begun on the link road from Byrne Mech to Raheen. This work is long overdue but met with local delays. It is a vital piece of local infrastructure for which the whole Community has waited too long.

NRA Meeting

I will lead a County Council delegation to meet senior NRA Management at their headquarters in Dublin on Nov 5 to express our anger and disappointment at the treatment of local communities by the N6 Construction Company. The delegation will include senior Co. Co. officials and Councillors and was requested as a result of the major damage and nuisance caused to property and roads since the project began.

This Article was first published in East Galway News and Views, November 2008

 

Gifford Consultants have been appointed by Galway County Council and the Heritage Council to compile a Conservation Plan and Management Plan for the Town Walls.

As part of the consultation process, a public meeting will be held in the Raheen Woods Hotel, (De Burgo Suite), on Wednesday, the 3rd of October at 8pm. Anne Thorton of Giffords will explain all aspects of the project, and those present can air their views and concerns in relation to the compilation of the Plans. Those in their teens and twenties will be most welcome to attend, as their views will be of vital in getting a comprehensive community view of what is being proposed.

East Galway to benefit from Water and Sewerage grants
Many East Galway communities will benefit from the recent multi-million investment package in Water and Sewerage facilities announced by Minister John Gormley.

The Tuam Regional Water supply will be extended to Clarinbridge and will cost over €2 million euro. Before the year is out, the long awaited Craughwell Sewerage Scheme costing €4,113,000 will commence, and in 2008 Athenry will see its sewerage infrastructure upgraded at a cost of €11.6 million.
Under the Serviced Land Initiative further investment will be made in the areas around Athenry, Claregalway and Craughwell. As well, Craughewell’s water supply will benefit under the Rural Towns and Villages initiative to the amount of €6,443,000.

This Article was first published in East Galway News and Views, October 2007

Flashing Lights for Carnaun School

Following representations from parents of children attending Carnaun National School, I’m pleased to allocate funding towards the provision of flashing warning lights on the approach roads to the school. This work will be completed early in the New Year and will be very beneficial in Road Safety terms for pupils attending the school.

Playground support for Craughwell

Galway County Council has agreed to provide substantial funding towards the provision of a playground in Craughwell.

Subject to a suitable site being available the Council will give €50,000 towards the cost of development and play equipment. It will also provide insurance cover on an on-going basis.

I am delighted with this very positive news for Craughwell and I wish to congratulate the Craughwell Development Association on its submission to the County Council requesting the funding.

I was glad to be of assistance to them in their proposal.

Proposed Power Station at Derrydonnell

The Quinn Group which owns BUPA Ireland and Quinn Cement among other things has acquired approximately 30 acres of forest land from Coillte in the Derrydonnell / Tobberoe area. It is their intention to apply for permission to build a Gas-fired Electricity Generating Station there.

This news has come as a bolt from the blue to the locality and especially the residents of the vicinity, who are very concerned at the whole process and what the implications are into the future.

As a local representative I have been contacted by a number of people in the area and after some enquiries the situation, as I understand, is as follows:

The Quinn Group has contacted Bord Pleanála in order to ascertain if a planning application for the Station will be dealt with under the new Strategic Infrastructure Act.
If Bord Pleanála decide that the proposal should be dealt with as a normal application, Quinns must then apply through Galway County Council where the public can make submissions as normal.
If the proposal is considered by Bord Pleanála to be Strategic Infrastructure (as is likely) then the application bypasses the local council and goes directly to An Bord Pleanála.

At that stage a report is prepared by Galway County Council where public submissions are invited. The content of these submissions is part of this report, which is then submitted to An Bord Pleanála and which then makes its decision to grant or refuse.

My understanding is that there will be no Oral Hearing as part of this process and the only appeal is by Judicial Review through the courts. The Strategic Infrastructure Act is new legislation and to some extent we are in unknown territory as to its operation.

The residents of the area are very understandably aggrieved at the lack of consultation which marks the whole deal to date. They rightly feel that they have been good neighbours of Coillte for generations and now a deal, which may have major implications for their lives and property values, has been done behind their backs. This behaviour, they feel, is unacceptable from a state owned company. They worry about the possibility of new pylons and their impact on the area and the extra traffic on the Derrydonnell /Athenry road where local people can’t even get planning for a family home.

However, I have been contacted in recent days by a representative from the Quinn Group who assures me that, whatever the planning requirement, they wish to consult fully with the local people and, as an initial step, I expect to meet with him in the coming weeks. From that meeting I may have more information on their plans for the site and the possible impact on the local area, bearing in mind that nothing has yet been applied for, never mind been granted.

This is a very upsetting situation for the people living near the site and their concerns must be reflected in whatever result emerges from this process.

Town Walls Conservation Plan

Gifford Ltd, Engineers and Conservationists based in Chester, England, have been appointed by Galway County Council to undertake the Conservation Plan for the Athenry Town Walls.

The Plan which is being funded by the Heritage Council and County Council will begin in Aug / Sept with a consultation process with landowners / occupiers and the general public. Work should be complete before Christmas with the plan being launched in the early New Year.

This Article was first published in East Galway News and Views, August 2007

€30,000 for Newcastle Centre.

The April meeting of Galway Co. Council approved a grant of €30,000 to Newcastle Community Centre. This is one of just 5 such grants awarded around the county and it is a tribute to the great work being done by Newcastle Community Council and the groups using the centre.

Athenry Walls Conservation Plan

For centuries the Town Walls have given an almost unique feel to Athenry. After many years of neglect by state agencies a new initiative has been started which will at least give direction to how the Walls are dealt with in the future.

This new move is the preparation of a Conservation Plan for the Walls and it’s a joint venture between Galway County Council, The Heritage Council and a local stakeholder partnership. A comprehensive brief has been prepared over a number of months by the three groups and now tenders have been invited from consultants to do the Plan itself.

On completion it is expected that the plan will detail the present condition of the Walls, threats to its future and a direction towards it conservation. There will then be a possibility of obtaining finance from Heritage sources to preserve and restore stretches of the Walls.

The Plan will form one of the key subjects for the Annual Conference of the Irish Walled Towns Network which will be held in Athenry in early 2008. Delegates from walled towns all over Ireland and from the European Walled Towns Network will visit Athenry for a 2 day conference on the subject. Athenry, along with Derry and Fethard, are considered the showcase walled towns in Ireland by the Heritage Council which bodes well for the future of Heritage issues in Athenry.

I am pleased to see Galway County Council taking a central role in plans for the future of the Walls and, hopefully, putting them at the centre of a unique amenity and attraction for Athenry in years to come. Major credit should also go to property owners along the length of the Walls, local Heritage and community groups, and Brid Higgins from Lisheenkyle and Marie Mannion, Heritage Officers for Galway Co. Co. for their co-operation and interest.