Friday 7 July 2023
We congratulate the staff of Galway County Council Planning Department for putting together this comprehensive consultative draft LAP for Athenry town and its immediate environs.
The draft, comprising of six parts, recognises the historical importance of Athenry town and the immense opportunities it offers in terms of future residential and commercial growth. In this regard we applaud the manner in which the draft draws upon the delicate balance between sustainable 21st century urban development within what is internationally recognised as one of the finest medieval walled towns in western Europe.
Furthermore, we welcome the document’s emphasis on the tourist aspect of the town and the enormous potential this has for the town’s growth going forward.
A brief explanation
As a local body involved primarily in the historical aspect of the town we will concern ourselves with just one aspect that we believe ought to be addressed in the final Athenry LAP 2023 – 2029.
The most famous visual aspect one immediately sees on approaching the medieval town is its historic town wall. Indeed, the late Professor Etienne Rynne (UCG) and Dr. John Bradley (Maynooth University) both agreed that the external views of the wall on entering the town from the east and the south are one of the best of any walled towns in western Europe. It is for this very reason that the Board of Works first proposed a ‘buffer zone’ (protection zone) around the town wall back in the mid 1970s. This came to fruition in the early 1990s when the OPW officially declared the town wall a National Monument (NM) and a 15m protection zone was established both inside and outside the circuit of the town wall. Later, in the 1990s, this protection zone was extended to its present limit of 30m inside and out. We consider this 30m protection zone to be adequate both inside and outside the circuit of the town wall. We hope that sometime in the future this protection zone may facilitate the inclusion of a carefully designed surface-laid public walkway/cycleway running the full circuit of the town wall both inside and out.
The issue we have with the draft Athenry LAP is as follows:
The draft completely lacks clarity with regard to the town wall. We believe that a dedicated map should be included detailing the circuit of the town wall with the 30 metre protection zone clearly marked on both sides of the National Monument. This is a critical inclusion in order to inform the 34 stakeholders, whose property is adjacent to the town wall, of their civic responsibility in protecting and preserving its present remains. Please note that Athenry town wall is a National Monument in state care but NOT state ownership. The individual stakeholders are the owners and guardians of the wall: we believe this to be the case at present. More importantly, any future encroachment onto the protection zone by private interests must be discouraged. This can only be done by clearly defining the protection zone surrounding the monument on a dedicated map. No great detail regarding development encroachments in the past (prior to the establishment of the 15m or 30m protection limit) is required on the town wall 30m protection zone map.
We believe that the 30m protection zone belongs to no zoning definition or zoning matrix. It cannot be part of the zoning: it is a strip of land whose purpose is to preserve the wall’s integrity and, hopefully in the future, present an opportunity for public access to the town wall circuit. We suggest that the ubiquitous term ‘buffer zone’ be removed in favour of the more descriptive term ‘protection zone’.
Finally, we would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the great contribution the Heritage and Conservation Officers of Galway County Council have given to Athenry Town down the years, not least the ‘Athenry Town Walls Conservation and Management Plan’ – Gifford Cultural Heritage, UK.
We would respectfully ask Galway County Council to include a ‘town wall circuit and 30m protection zone’ map in the Athenry Local Area Plan 2023 – 2029 for the reasons outlined above.
On behalf of the committee:
Dominic Monaghan. Secretary & PRO, Athenry Historical Society.
Finbarr O’Regan. Honorary Member, Athenry Historical Society.
Aideen Rynne. Honorary President, Athenry Historical Society.
Correspondence via email to the Secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Written by Dominic Monaghan
Published here 19 Jul 2023 and originally published July 2023