A number of businesses in Oranmore have raised concerns about the impact of road closures that will take place in the town over the summer months, to facilitate works by Irish Water.
The Galway County Council gave notice last week that various roads in the town would be closed for the works between 18 and 25 July and between 4 and 14 August, with roads remaining open through Race Week, and closures being carried out in stages.
“The water mains rehabilitation work due to take place in Oranmore is part of a larger project to ensure a consistent supply of safe, clean drinking water to local business and residents in Oranmore, Ballinasloe and Headford,” said a spokesperson from Irish Water, adding preliminary works are due to commence on 16 June.
“Irish Water has worked closely with Galway County Council in planning the rollout of this project and over the course of this planning, it was agreed that June to August is the best time to carry out the work. This will ensure minimum disruption to the local community and coincide with school holidays,” she said.
June to August is still a busy period for local businesses that rely on tourism during the Galway festival season, and local Independent Senator Fidelma Healy Eames has criticised the fact that a meeting to inform businesses about the imminent road closures was convened with just a few hours notice last Tuesday.
“This came as a shock to every business owner present as it did myself. There was no advance notice or advance consultation. All businesses present spoke about their fears that word would go out that Oranmore is closed for business,” she said.
“Although the works will mean temporary road closures and that there will still be 24-hour access to Oranmore at all times, the inconvenience to businesses and the knock-on effect in highly likely reduced trade is a real fear particularly for those in the hospitality trade who rely heavily on the tourist season.”
One businessman present at the meeting said that he would have to contact everyone booked for the period and tell them about the works near the establishment in case they would like to cancel their booking, the Senator explained.
Another business spoke about their partner business in Galway City having already suffered a 60 per cent loss in trade due to Lough Atalia works, and another spoke about her business having finally turned a corner after three years and the unlikelihood that the bank manager would accept the water works as an excuse for her reduced trade.
“I am particularly annoyed at the gall of Irish Water, and indeed Galway County Council’s collaborative role in this. That they think they can treat the people of Oranmore like this without having had the courtesy of having one public meeting in advance to agree best times to carry out these works,” said Senator Healy Eames.
The works will involve burying a large diameter pipe under the road, with Irish Water stating that roads will be closed off in small sections only to keep disruptions to a minimum.
“Irish Water apologises for any inconvenience which may be caused as this project, which will allow for a reliable and safe drinking water supply for many years to come, is carried out,” said the spokesperson for Irish Water.
Senator Healy Eames has now asked Irish Water to remain open to rescheduling the works to more suitable times so the peak season for businesses in Oranmore is not affected, with a meeting due to take place yesterday evening, Tuesday, to discuss solutions to the problem.
“The best outcome for the timing of these works will be one that is mutually agreed by business owners and residents alike,” said the Senator. “The timing should not be a unilateral decision made by Irish Water. Irish Water is a public utility that we all pay for any it is only good practice that they work in collaboration with us rather than in isolation.”