Caroline Stanley writes:
For fours years we have fought to preserve and protect Merlin Park Woods and its meadows from development.
In Feb 2014, we successfully had a planned bus corridor/road through Merlin Park Woods and its meadows removed from Galway City Development Plan.
Our locally elected Councillors voted unanimously to have it removed and also to wors towards the protection of the woodlands and the meadows by pushing for it to be designated as an SAC, SPA or NHA.
We have built up extensive knowledge of the wildlife in the area and have come to realise even more the value of these lands to all: both people and wildlife, such as such as the Red Squirrel, foxes, rabbits, butterflies, bumblebees, orchids and much more. . To our dismay in July 2015, we discovered that Galway Hospice were to purchase 15 acres of land from the HSE who managed half of the woodland and the meadows.
We reached out to the Galway Hospice to explain the work we had been doing and which was ongoing but the reply that came back was that the intention was to proceed with the plans.
When submissions for the development were made public, we then became aware of the land that was offered for sale and development; we had hoped that they would build within the areas of the hospital complex which were already zoned for development but this was not the case.
Some of our local Councillors and Council members were invited to meet with the HSE and the Hospice to ensure that the meadows would be rezoned for specific development for Galway Hospice to build 120 carpark spaces, 50-bed unit and a Conference centre.
At no stage of that process were the public invited or our group giving a voice at these meetings.
Although the size of acreage was decreased from 15 acres to 7 acres, the original planned building work will stay the same and will destroy most of the Orchid meadow which are also Annex 1 meadowlands, rich in many species of Orchids which grow in their hundreds if not thousands and is an area of International Environmental Importance.
There is no way to mitigate this as you cannot replace what has taken many generations to evolve ,the destruction of a whole ecosystem, once it is gone that’s it!!
We were also contacted by local people who asked us how we could save this area as this was an important area in their own lives. We reached out to our local councillors some of which have agreed to save the meadows but the majority have voted for it to be rezoned.
We are also aware of the amazing work that Galway Hospice does for the community and the need for more space but we do not see the value in using land that is zoned Recreational and Amenity because it goes against the value of this land for people for their health both physically and mentally.
Everyone needs a place to escape to and in a city this is a rare thing.
Our population in the surrounding communities is expected to expand from approx 30,000 to 60,000 as development continues in this area over the next few years. We have a place to get away from it all here and we would like for it to continue this way and for the Hospice and the HSE to find an alternative site within the hospital complex which will be more suitable for the needs of all the community and will need no rezoning of land as areas of land are already zoned for this purpose.
We would appreciate your support in signing and sharing our petition to help us save this meadow from destruction and to stop further fragmentation of the woodland and its meadows: