George Ryder has lived in his home at the Aghnacurra housing estate, in Dangan, Galway, for 35 years, having bought the site and built a home on it for him and his wife to spend the rest of their days in.
For the past five years, Mr Ryder has had the threat of a CPO (compulsory purchase order) hanging over him and his home. If the proposed Galway ring road goes ahead, his house will have to be demolished to make way for it.
“We’re supposed to have a housing shortage here in Ireland at the moment. I’ve a nice house here, which we designed with the help of an architect. It’s all on one level; we said for our old age that we wouldn’t have to go climbing stairs,” Mr Ryder said.
“I presume with the CPO that eventually we’ll get a fair value for the house, but I then have to go looking for other accommodation, which, at this stage of my life, it’s not really what I want.”
Mr Ryder said that initially, the plan was for a CPO to take 20ft-30ft (6m-9m) off his garden, which he was okay with. Yet the route that was eventually agreed upon “is going to demolish pretty much the whole of this estate [Aghnacurra]”, and another housing estate across the road.
The accountant, who owns the firm Ryder Son & Co in Galway, added that he does not think the ring road will be built in his lifetime.
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In October, however, An Bord Pleanála conceded a High Court case against the proposed €600 million ring road around Galway, in a move that will scrap planning permission granted last year for the 18km project that was supposed to ease chronic traffic congestion in the city.
The planning authority decided not to contest court action against the project by campaign group Friends of the Irish Environment, saying at the time it was “not aware” that the Government had adopted a new climate plan days before it decided to grant planning permission, and failed to consider it, as required by law. The 2021 Climate Action Plan was introduced less than one week before An Bord Pleanála’s decision in the Galway case.
Galway City and County Councils, and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, said last month that they were confident the issues could be resolved, and intended to progress delivery of the road.
The uncertainty over the situation has left householders, including Mr Ryder, in limbo.
“I don’t think I’m going to see it. I would like to be left out in peace, spend out my days here. I like it here, moving house now is not what I want. I have a fine site here, where can I replace this? How long will that take me? It doesn’t suit me at all, and I do not think you’ll find anyone around here that’s in favour of [the ring road].
“I’m not in favour of it. Do I spend money on the house if there are things to be done with it if it’s going to be knocked down in a year or two? It’s a bit restricting, and if I want to sell, I can’t, because who’ll buy? Would you buy a house with a death sentence on it?” Mr Ryder said.
“It’s an annoyance that I feel I have this risk of being told in a year or so, ‘get out’.”
Jessica Burnham, who has rented a room in a house in Aghnacurra for more than a year, described the threat of being evicted because of a CPO as “terrifying”.
“I’d love to have options, I’d like to be out of here, but there is nowhere. We’re all a bit on edge, it’s not ideal. We’re here, and we can’t go anywhere else. We have no other options, so this is it,” Ms Burnham said.
She also added, however, that as a renter, living in a house that may be subject to a CPO in the future has its perks. “There’s two ends of the spectrum here. On one hand, once they decide we have to be out, there is no negotiation.
“On the other hand, we have an awful lot of safety because [the landlord] can’t sell the house and he can’t do anything to the house and good luck trying to get anyone else in, so we’re safe here, kind of.
“There’s an awful feeling of limbo [in the estate]. Can’t stay, can’t go, it gives you an awful, unsettled feeling,” Ms Burnham said.
“We’re all under no illusion that it would be almost impossible for us to all find a house again together and we like living together, it’s nice. It’s a nice little community we have,” Ms Burnham said, alluding to Galway’s current housing situation.
[ Galway ring road plan quashed as board admits it was not aware of climate plan ]
Another homeowner in the area, who did not wish to be named, echoed Ms Burnham’s feelings of limbo. He said that he does not care whether they build the ring road or not, he would just like a decision to be made so he no longer must live with the uncertainty.
He said that he feels he has been through enough and, being a good citizen, he would expect it to be repaid in the form of a home, which is a right that would be taken from him if the ring road and its subsequent CPOs go ahead.
Fine Gael councillor for Galway City Central, Eddie Hoare, said that he feels the ring road forms “an integral part of the Galway Transport Strategy”.
‘I can understand the frustration hasn’t been easy for families, especially older people who have been there all their lives’
He also added that he has a lot of sympathy for homeowners affected by CPOs “not least because they’re losing their homes but the way in which they have been treated, and I am disappointed the way they have been treated”.
“They’ve waited so many years and have been landlocked or in limbo for so many years and then the planning authority, An Bord Pleanála, those who oversee the planning decision-making process in our country, come and make a decision, a decision without considering the climate Bill,” Cllr Hoare said.
“ABP [An Bord Pleanála] have let down not just the local authority, the citizens of Galway, but mostly, again, those people in the homes that are in limbo.”
Cllr Hoare said that living under the threat of CPOs for extended periods of time has undoubtedly caused the homeowners a lot of stress.
“I’d nearly be calling for them to be compensated for this additional and excess stress that they don’t need, further compensated.”
He also urged the board to make a decision, “irrespective of whether it’s accepted or rejected”, so that those living in houses in the CPOed areas can “know for certain where they stand”.
Green Party councillor Niall Murphy for Galway City West, who is against the ring road, said that he feels the road will never be built.
“The barriers will be very difficult. It takes a long time to get big infrastructure done when everybody is in favour of it,” he said.
He added that he has the “greatest sympathy” for those living under the threat of CPO.
Fianna Fáil councillor Alan Cheevers, who represents the east of the city, said that although he feels the ring road is “vital” to alleviate traffic in the city, the landowners that will be affected by CPOs if it goes ahead deserve certainty.
“I can understand the frustration hasn’t been easy for families, especially older people who have been there all their lives,” he said. “These couples are now going to be moved and but maybe they had alternative accommodation sorted out or they had an idea of where they were going to go or they were going to downsize to somewhere in the area beside where they lived – but now they don’t know whether they’re coming or going.”