Challenge brought against proposed emergency flood relief works in Connemara
Posted on 13th October 2022 at 21:45
Friends of the Irish Environment group claims works are in breach of EU laws designed to protect the environment
A High Court challenge has been brought against Galway County Council’s decision to authorise emergency flood relief works in Connemara.
In an action that may have wider implications for local government, the Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) group claims the works permitted by the council under the 1949 Local Authorities Act are in breach of EU laws designed to protect the environment.
FIE claims the EU law prevents permission for the works being granted under the 1949 Act and that permission should have been sought under the 2000 Planning and Development Act.
The proceedings are against Galway County Council, as well as Ireland and the Attorney General. The case concerns works near Kylemore Bridge over the Dawros or Kylemore River in north Connemara, close to the well-known Connemara landmark Kylemore Abbey.
The river is one of just a few remaining habitats in Ireland for freshwater pearl mussels which, it is claimed, are on the brink of extinction.
As part of its flood prevention attempts, the council has authorised itself to carry out works, including dredging the river on what is locally known as the Iron Bridge. FIE alleges the works may affect mussels and salmon populations in the river, with both species requiring pristine water to survive and thrive.
FIE claims the council has authorised flood relief works under the 1949 Act that are likely to have a significant effect on the environment and that should at least be screened for the purposes of complying with the EU directive on Environmental Impact Assessments. The council did not carry out any environmental assessments before the commencement of works, which amounts to a breach of European Law, FIE claims.
In its action, FIE, represented by barrister John Kenny, instructed by FP Logue solicitor Eoin Brady, seeks several reliefs, including an order quashing the council’s decision to authorise works at the N59 Kylemore Bridge, in Connemara. It also wants a temporary stay on those works.
FIE is also asking for a declaration that permission for the proposed works should be sought under the 2000 Planning and Development Act.
It also seeks declarations including that sections of the 1949 Act are invalid and constitute a mis-transposition of EU Directives on Habitats and Environmental Impact Assessments.
FIE further seeks declarations that the State respondents have failed to properly transpose those directives.
The matter was briefly mentioned before Mr Justice Charles Meenan on Thursday, who adjourned the action to a date in December.
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