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Councillors’ unease at €7.2m price tag for new bridge



The design of the proposed new bridge adjacent to the Salmon Weir Bridge.

The €7.2 million price tag for a new pedestrian and cycling bridge planned adjacent to the Salmon Weir Bridge has unsettled elected members of Galway City Council.

At a meeting last week, several city councillors questioned the logic of spending that figure on a new footbridge bridge.

A number of councillors suggested that it would be a ‘waste of money’, because the existing Salmon Weir Bridge would still be used by pedestrians. They suggested that the existing bridge should be turned into a pedestrian bridge, and the new bridge should be vehicular.

Robert Ryan, engineer with Arup Consultants, gave a presentation outlining the ‘emerging preferred option’ for a new crossing adjacent to the existing bridge.

Arup, he said, had a “huge sense of responsibility” to deliver a bridge “of the highest quality”. It was a “hugely iconic site” and they are proposing an “iconic” bridge that would stand the test of time and “outlive all of us”, he said.

Arup, which has offices in Ballybrit, was involved in the Mary Elmes Bridge in Cork and the pedestrian Living Bridge in University of Limerick. Seán Harrington Architects, which designed the Rosie Hackett Bridge in Dublin, are involved with Arup on the proposed new Galway bridge.

Mr Harrington told councillors that the proposed bridge – for pedestrians and cyclists – was “totally unique to the location, and totally unique to Galway”.

How the bridge would look during the construction phase.

The location is “hugely significant” for migrating salmon, hence its name. It was not just an A to B crossing either – the new bridge would cross “three water courses”, something Mr Harrington had “never seen before”.

It will be south of the existing bridge, and links Cathedral Square with Newtownsmyth. Separate plans to possibly pedestrianise Newtownsmyth are not linked with this project, officials confirmed. Mr Harrington said if it was “too close to the existing bridge, you’d clog it up”, and wouldn’t get a proper view of the new bridge.

Mr Ryan said the bridge could be constructed off-site, which would take 12 months, and could be assembled on location “over one weekend”. It was a highly sensitive area, and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), which complicated matters.

Officials agreed, under questioning from elected members, that the existing bridge would still have pedestrian access after the new bridge is built – the ‘northern’ footpath would have to be retained because that side of the bridge was a ‘protected view’, and couldn’t be seen from the new bridge because the old one would be blocking it.

Ollie Crowe, who spoke on behalf of the five Fianna Fáil councillors, said the existing bridge was 200 years old, and was in need of repair. He suggested it was preferable to build a new vehicular bridge, and convert the existing bridge for pedestrians and cyclists.

Cllr Pauline O’Reilly (Greens) said her main issue was the proposal was presented in isolation, without a Local Area Plan, or an overall vision for pedestrians and cycling city-wide. “How does it fit-in with the overall city,” she asked.

Cllr Colette Connolly said €7.2m was “an enormous amount of money” and Cllr Donal Lyons asked “Is this value for money?”.

Mr Ryan said the Mary Ellis Bridge in Cork cost €5m but the proposed Galway bridge was 30% larger, and in an SAC which made it more complicated and so more expensive.

Mayor Mike Cubbard (Ind) said the pedestrianisation of Newtownsmyth could cause chaos and the existing bridge crossing was dangerous. Cllr Declan McDonnell doubted whether pedestrians and cyclists coming from NUIG direction would actually use the new bridge if the existing bridge still had a footpath on it.

Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) wondered whether a fig tree, growing on the side of the existing bridge was “protected”, and would that cause hiccups in the planning process. Apparently, he said, the fig tree was “one of the eighth wonders of the world – it shouldn’t be there, but it is,” he said.

Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) asked whether they had investigated adding on a pedestrian leg to the existing bridge, like they have done at O’Brien’s Bridge. If that could be done for half the cost, Cllr Hoare said he would be in favour of it, no matter whether it looked ‘iconic’ or not.

Uinsinn Finn, Senior Executive Engineer with Galway City Council, said they did look at the O’Brien’s Bridge type option, but felt that a standalone new bridge would be preferable and more likely to get approval from An Bórd Pleanala, because the existing bridge was a protected structure. The new bridge proposal was being brought forward because it was part of the Galway Transport Strategy, which councillors had approved, he said.

The existing bridge has a daily footfall of 11,000, councillors heard. The new bridge would be a shared rather than segregated space for cyclists and pedestrians, with seating and viewing points at its midspan, which would be eight metres in total in the centre. At the entrance to each bridge would be a glass circle to view the water running underneath.

A workshop for councillors will take place on Friday, November 29. Galway cycling groups have also been invited to meet with engineers about the plans.

Site investigation works will commence in January of next year and they hope to lodge a planning application to An Bórd Pleanála before the middle of 2020.

Detail design and tender documentation will be complete by the end of next year, when they hope to commence construction, subject to there being no delays or objections.


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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