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Galway City councillors hit the brakes on 30km/h speed limit proposal



speed van bothar na dtreabh

From the Galway City Tribune – Councillors have hit the brakes on introducing a 30km/h speed limit for the city centre – opting instead for a full speed limit review on all city roads which the Council has committed to completing early next year.

At a meeting last Monday, a majority councillors voted down a motion proposed by Cllr Owen Hanley (Soc Dem) and seconded by Cllr Níall McNelis (Lab) to reduce the limit on inner city roads.

A report was presented to councillors from the Transport Department following the passage of a similar motion in March to reduce the speed limit in areas such as Bohermore, Headford Road, College Road, University Road and Dominick Street.

Senior Engineer Uinsinn Finn outlined that the Council Executive supported the city 30km/h zone but was recommending implementation as part of a city-wide review of speed limits – including housing estates without a 30km/h limit.

He said the process of rolling out a city-wide review would “in theory” take the same length of time as doing the city centre alone.

“I think we can be ready to come back to [councillors] in January. There would then be four weeks plus two weeks for the public consultation, bringing us to March or April next year to be in a position to adopt the bylaws.

“That review can include providing for a 30km/h limit in the city centre zone, as proposed by the motion, but can also include a review of national routes, such as Bóthar na dTreabh,” said Mr Finn, adding that the speed limit on that route was inappropriately low at 50km/h.

“There are also rural roads such as the Oranmore Coast Road where it is currently set at 50km/h out as far as Oranmore Train Station. The appropriate speed there would be 80km/h,” he continued, given the width of the road and the hard shoulder.

Cllr Niall Murphy (Green) said the whole point in taking the city centre as a standalone area was that a previous speed limit review in 2020 had been rejected by as some councillors were against increases in areas such as those outlined by Mr Finn, while the majority supported the 30km/h zone.

“If you combine it altogether, then nobody is getting what they want.

“This is supposed to be a reserved function, but councillors have little say – we should be able to vote on the city centre separately,” said Cllr Murphy.

Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) proposed an amendment to Cllr Hanley’s motion to include an increase in speed limits in areas where the limit was “too low”, such as Bóthar na dTreabh and the Tuam Road (at Roadstone), a suggestion accepted by Cllr Hanley in an attempt to break the deadlock.

Cllr Donal Lyons (Ind) proposed accepting the Executive’s recommendation to proceed with a full speed limit review and was seconded by Cllr Frank Fahy (FG).

Cllr Fahy said he could see the logic of the 30km/h proposal for the city centre but said the suggestion you could go any quicker during busy times was laughable.

“Anybody driving in the city this past week would be at a loss as to what we’re talking about – the city is in total gridlock,” he said.

Cllr Mike Crowe (FF) said he had taken on board Cllr Hanley’s motion, but it was “all over the place”.

City Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said Galway was out of step with the rest of the country and remained the only local authority not to have carried out a review following a Government directive in 2014.

“The current bylaws are broken and they need to be fixed – we are the only local authority that has not fixed them,” said Mr McGrath.

Cllr Hanley’s motion was voted down 11 votes to five. In favour: Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind); Cllr Owen Hanley (Soc Dem); Cllr Níall McNelis (Lab); Cllr Niall Murphy (Green); and Cllr Martina O’Connor (Green). Against: Cllr Imelda Byrne (FF); Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF); Cllr John Connolly (FF); Cllr Mike Crowe (FF); Cllr Frank Fahy (FG); Cllr Clodagh Higgins (FG); Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG); Cllr Peter Keane (FF); Cllr Noel Larkin (Ind); Cllr Donal Lyons (Ind); Cllr Terry O’Flaherty (Ind). Absent: Cllr Colette Connolly (Ind) and Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind).

Following this, only the two Green Party councillors opposed Cllr Lyons’ motion to proceed with a full review.
This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune, November 11. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. The print edition is in shops every Friday.


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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