A legal opinion issued by an Advocate General of the European Court of Justice today has upheld a legal challenge to the long-awaited Galway City Outer Bypass.
The 20-page document on the case of Peter Sweetman, Attorney General and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government versus An Bord Pleanála confirmed that the ECJ advisor “essentially endorses” the legal challenge against the multi-million route.
The project has been delayed for several years as a result of the case by Sweetman, who claimed that the impact the plans would have on the local environment contravened an EU Habitats Directive.
“It is necessary to determine whether that plan or project will have a negative effect on the constitutive elements of the site concerned, having regard to the reasons for which the site was designated and their associated conservation objectives,” read the statement. “An effect which is permanent or long-lasting must be regarded as an adverse one”
The report does not constitute a final decision by the European Court of Justice but will have a heavy bearing on the eventual verdict.
Reacting to the news, Galway Deputy Brian Walsh said that the opinion was “in line with what we had anticipated” and said that while parties would await the final decision, the impetus would now shift to a contingent plan of an application under the IROPI process.
“I had highlighted the need for a contingent application to be readied earlier this year and groundwork in relation to that process has been advanced as a result,” he said.
“An application under Article 6(4) of the Habitats Directive seeks permission for an infrastructure project to proceed in spite of its impact on a protected site on condition that there are ‘imperative reasons of overriding public interest’. Importantly, this process does not involve referral to the courts system and would not be subject to the kind of delays that we have experienced in relation to this project in the past.”
And he added that the Galway City Outer Bypass remained at the top of the priority list for Government.
“It is crucial that Galway County Council and all of the stakeholders in the Bypass project progress the IROPI application as a matter of priority now, and I will be working to ensure that they have every resource that they require in order to do so.”