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Bohermore hotel development scaled back after Council concerns



Extensive revisions have been drawn up to plans for a large hotel on the site of the former Shannon Dry Cleaners in Bohermore – including a reduction in the number of bedrooms – after the proposal was branded “overbearing” by Galway City Council.

Last February, Salthill-based developer Georgina O’Mahony of Highgate Properties, sought permission for the redevelopment of the fire-gutted site and two adjoining properties.

Her plans were to build a 139-bedroom hotel and to convert the old railway tunnel under the site to a feature lounge.

The plans involved a two, three and four-storey hotel over lower ground floor level in two blocks fronting onto Bohermore and the rear of the site.

However, planners ordered the applicant to go back to the drawing board, describing the proposal as “overbearing” and saying it would have a negative impact on its surrounds.

The city’s Chief Fire Officer also raised concerns in relation to health and safety.

Revised plans were submitted to the Council, which include a reduction in bedrooms to 134, while the front block has also been scaled back.

The architects told the Council: “By removing the expansive, steeply pitched roofs and by setting back the top floor, the height and appearance has been reduced and the entire proposal looks better proportioned and integrated into the site.

“The main façade remains subdivided into four bays to keep the original purpose of following the language of the streetscape, interspersed between white render and natural Irish limestone cladding to create visual interest and variety.

“External elements on the original proposal such as the chimney on the north elevation, the timber fins on windows and the glazing boxes have been removed. Fenestration has been simplified to provide a far more orderly and mannerly arrangement of windows and openings, which characterises the surrounding houses along the street.

“A zinc cladding was chosen as the finish for the set-back top floor.

“The revised proposal makes a very positive contribution to the street, reinstating a building onto the established building line that will incorporate good quality materials, well-proportioned facades and appropriate scale.”

In the original proposal, a wing of three floors over lower ground floor was planned for the rear of 86 Bohermore (a Protected Structure which was once a pub). However, this was considered unacceptable because of negative visual impact.

One floor has now been removed and the pitched roof replaced with a flat one. Changes have also been made to the vehicular access archway which is now a “more dynamic and interesting place”, including an arched timber ceiling feature.

In a Mobility Management Plan – also requested by the Council – the applicants point out that because of the city centre location, walking, cycling and public transport are viable options for staff, as well as public transport for staff.

There are now 13 parking spaces (including one for disabled use) and eight cycle spaces. There would be around 107 staff, but not all on-site at any one time.

“The amount of carparking provided, although limited, is therefore sufficient, given the site location and the development characteristics. Furthermore, off-site carparking facilities within a short walk from the hotel can be used to accommodate surplus guest car parking needs,” the applicants said.

A Conservation Impact Report on the revised proposal reads: “The work to No 86 Bohermore, a protected structure which has lost most of its inherent character, will allow the building to make a positive contribution to the streetscape once again.

“Its integration into the proposed hotel development will allow for a viable new use of a structure which has lain empty for a number of years and whose fabric has suffered as a result of this. The proposal is also designed in a way which will allow the historic building to be clearly read as a distinct entity.

“The proposed works to the former railway tunnel will have a positive impact on this feature which has lain purposeless since the closure of the line in 1935. The structure will receive necessary remedial works, halting the decay of its fabric, while also ensure that there is raised knowledge and appreciation of this important structure,” it reads.


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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