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150 new social housing units given green light in Knocknacarra



Two house-building projects in Knocknacarra – which will provide 152 social housing units – have been given the green light, but amendments to the plans means they will be delayed by months.

Councillors at a meeting of Galway City Council welcomed the first social housing schemes in ten years in the city where 4,140 families — an estimated 12,000 people — are on the housing list.

However, following a decision by councillors to omit a link road in one scheme of 78 residential units at Ballyburke and a pedestrian/cycleway in the second scheme of 74 units, neither of these will now go to tender in August as planned, as the amended plans will have to be resubmitted to the Department of the Environment.

The bigger of the two schemes at Ballyburke on the Ballymoneen Road (the Ard Cré development, part of which is currently under construction) is fully financed by public funds, but Brendan McGrath, Chief Executive of Galway City Council, said the other scheme of 74 units, at the entrance to Coláiste na Coiribe could be in jeopardy as it was being built by a private contractor under a Public Private Partnership scheme.

“I am not crying wolf here,” he warned councillors, “but this scheme is part of a bundle and I would be concerned that there is a risk that the bundle will proceed without us.”

Patricia Philbin, Senior Executive Officer, had told the meeting she had hoped to send the housing plans to the Department in July, go to tender in August, break ground next January and have them completed by the middle of 2020.

Cllr Declan McDonnell, chairman of the Housing Strategic Policy Committee, described concerns about alleyways and through roads as “delaying tactics” and said he would not be supporting it in light of the need for housing in the city.

But a number of councillors were determined to bring public concerns to the meeting about security, crime and child safety. There were 72 submissions made on this scheme alone after it went on public display. Mr McGrath said he was surprised at the tone and language used in a number of these.  Councillors Mark Lohan and Billy Cameron agreed.

Cllr Niall McNelis said that the concerns of local people had to be taken into account as residents did not want alleyways or areas that would attract anti-social behaviour and that the Council had to close many of these off in recent years for that reason.

Outgoing Mayor of Galway, Cllr Pearce Flannery stressed that houses needed to be built and he welcomed both schemes, but without the link road or the laneways.

It was pointed out to councillors that there was no comparison to alleyways in previous housing estates to what was envisaged here, where the pedestrian/cycle way giving access to the school, were designed differently.

Both Mr McGrath and Ms Philbin, Acting Director of Services, explained to councillors that such linkage roads and walkways were part of the city’s own Development Plan, as well as the National Development Plan as they represented sustainability of movement and transport and to omit them in these schemes was going against national policy and in fact might mean that homeowners in adjacent estates might find when selling that their properties were not certificate compliant.

Cllr Lohan said he welcomed the housing schemes and their layout — they will include four, three and two-bedroomed houses and duplexes to suit smaller family units with playgrounds and green spaces as well as home zones — but was concerned about the reluctance of some councillors to get them the go-ahead.

Cllr Cathal Ó Conchúir acknowledged that alleyways had created anti-social problems before, but was confident these pedestrian/cycle ways were totally different as they were overlooked by houses and weren’t surrounded by high walls.

Despite the executive advice to the meeting, councillors voted to amend both plans by 14 to 3.


Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises



From the Galway City Tribune – An impassioned plea for a ‘masterplan’ that would guide Galway City into the future has been made in the Dáil. Galway West TD Catherine Connolly stated this week that there needed to be an all-inclusive approach with “vision and leadership” in order to build a sustainable city.

Deputy Connolly spoke at length at the crisis surrounding traffic and housing in Galway city and said that not all of the blame could be laid at the door of the local authority.

She said that her preference would be the provision of light rail as the main form of public transport, but that this would have to be driven by the government.

“I sat on the local council for 17 years and despaired at all of the solutions going down one road, metaphorically and literally. In 2005 we put Park & Ride into the development plan, but that has not been rolled out. A 2016 transport strategy was outdated at the time and still has not been updated.

“Due to the housing crisis in the city, a task force was set up in 2019. Not a single report or analysis has been published on the cause of the crisis,” added Deputy Connolly.

She then referred to a report from the Land Development Agency (LDA) that identified lands suitable for the provision of housing. But she said that two-thirds of these had significant problems and a large portion was in Merlin Park University Hospital which, she said, would never have housing built on it.

In response, Minister Simon Harris spoke of the continuing job investment in the city and also in higher education, which is his portfolio.

But turning his attention to traffic congestion, he accepted that there were “real issues” when it came to transport, mobility and accessibility around Galway.

“We share the view that we need a Park & Ride facility and I understand there are also Bus Connects plans.

“I also suggest that the City Council reflect on her comments. I am proud to be in a Government that is providing unparalleled levels of investment to local authorities and unparalleled opportunities for local authorities to draw down,” he said.

Then Minister Harris referred to the controversial Galway City Outer Ring Road which he said was “struck down by An Bord Pleanála”, despite a lot of energy having been put into that project.

However, Deputy Connolly picked up on this and pointed out that An Bord Pleanála did not say ‘No’ to the ring road.

“The High Court said ‘No’ to the ring road because An Bord Pleanála acknowledged it failed utterly to consider climate change and our climate change obligations.

“That tells us something about An Bord Pleanála and the management that submitted such a plan.”

In the end, Minister Harris agreed that there needed to be a masterplan for Galway City.

“I suggest it is for the local authority to come up with a vision and then work with the Government to try to fund and implement that.”

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Official opening of Galway’s new pedestrian and cycle bridge



The new Salmon Weir pedestrian and cycle bridge will be officially opened to the public next Friday, May 26.

Work on the €10 million bridge got underway in April 2022, before the main structure was hoisted into place in early December.

A lunchtime tape-cutting ceremony will take place on Friday, as the first pedestrians and cyclists traverse the as-yet-unnamed bridge.

The Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, previously said the bridge, once opened, would remove existing conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and traffic “as well as facilitating the Cross-City Link public transport corridor over the existing 200-year-old bridge”.

The naming of the new bridge has been under discussion by the Council’s Civic Commemorations Committee since late last year.

One name that has been in the mix for some time is that of the first woman in Europe to graduate with an engineering degree – Alice Perry.

Ms Perry, who was from Wellpark, graduated from Queen’s College Galway (now University of Galway) in 1906. The university’s engineering building is named in her honour.

The bridge was built by Jons Civil Engineering firm in County Meath and was assembled off-site before being transported to Galway. Funding for the project was provided in full by the National Transport Authority and the European Regional Development Fund.

(Photo: Sheila Gallagher captured the city’s new pedestrian footbridge being raised on the south side of the Salmon Weir Bridge in December. It will officially open next Friday, May 26).

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Minister branded ‘a disgrace’ for reversing land rezoning in Galway City



From the Galway City Tribune – Minister of State for Local Government and Planning, Kieran O’Donnell was labelled a “disgrace” for overturning councillors’ decisions to rezone land in the new City Development Plan.

Minister O’Donnell (pictured) confirmed in a letter to Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath last week that he was reversing 25 material alternations made by councillors to the CDP 2023-29. He made the decision on the advice of Office of Planning Regulator (OPR).

Minister O’Donnell directed that 14 land parcels that were subject to land-use zoning changes by councillors as part of the Material Alterations to the Draft CDP should be reversed.

He directed that a further 11 land parcels in the city should become “unzoned”.

The Minister found that the CDP had not been made in a manner consistent with recommendations of the OPR, which required specific changes to the plan to ensure consistency with the national planning laws and guidelines.

At last week’s Council meeting Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) asked for clarity on the process by which councillors could rezone the lands that had been changed by the Minister’s direction.

Cllr Declan McDonnell said, “What he [Minister O’Donnell] has done is an absolute disgrace”.

And he asked: “Do we have to have another development plan meeting to deal with it?”

Both Cllrs Hoare and McDonnell wondered what would become of the lands that were rezoned or unzoned by the ministerial direction.

Mr McGrath said the Council had put forward an argument in favour of retaining the material alterations in the plan, but ultimately the Minister sided with OPR.

He said if councillors want to make alterations to the new plan, they could go through the process of making a material alteration but this was lengthy.

The Save Roscam Peninsula campaign welcomed the Minister’s decision.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, it said the direction would mean the Roscam village area on the Roscam Peninsula will be unzoned and a number of land parcels would revert back to agriculture/high amenity.

A spokesperson for the campaign said: “the material alterations made by city councillors following lobbying by developers continued the long-standing practice of councillors facilitating a developer-led plan rather than an evidence- and policy-based plan that meets the needs of the city.

“The Minister’s direction is an important step in restoring confidence in the planning system. It is clear from the City Council’s own evidence on future housing projections that there was no requirement to zone these lands for residential purposes in order to meet the needs of the targeted population increase up to 2029,” the spokesperson added.

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