From the Galway City Tribune – There are “significant” risks to the supply of electricity to the Emergency Department at University Hospital Galway – which could cause “complete power disruption”, the HSE has said.
In documentation submitted to Galway City Council, the health authority said it needs to build a new electrical substation on the site of the ‘Mass Path’ carpark at Newcastle Avenue.
The HSE is seeking planning permission to build an ‘Electrical Energy Centre’ to power the existing Temporary Emergency Department (TED), as well as future-proof for the proposed €450m Women and Children’s Block and upgrade work to the Nurses’ Home building.
The plan would also see the removal of some underground services which need to be removed if a proposed bus corridor through the hospital campus is given the green light.
At the moment, the TED is powered by a cable which runs from the boiler house – much of which is over ground.
“The cable runs over ground in parts (more than 50% of the route), there are risks that it could be purposely interfered with or accidentally damaged by a vehicle, particularly where it is installed along the perimeter of the existing carpark for which no other option exists at present.
“These risks are significant and the consequences of such damage resulting in complete power disruption to the ED cannot be overstated,” the planning application reads.
According to the documentation, the entire Mass Path car park (almost 70 spaces) will be taken up during the development. When completed, 31 spaces will be lost, leaving just 38.
A Noise Impact Assessment included as part of the application concluded:” There will be no residual effects from the construction phase of the project. The noise impact of the proposed Electrical Energy Centre development will not be significant in relation to the existing background noise level in the area. There will be no significant residual impact from the operation of the proposed development.”
However, it did say: “There is likely to be temporary and intermittent increases in noise levels during the construction phase at the nearest residential properties. The main sources of noise due to construction will be from activities such as truck movements of excavated and construction materials, as well as crane and excavator/loader noise sources.”
The report went on to say: “The predicted worst-case noise levels from the Electrical Energy Centre [when operational] indicated that the future noise levels will not exceed the daytime and night-time background noise levels recorded in the area.”
Under a Construction Traffic Management Plan, deliveries and HGVs will have to use the Browne Roundabout access.
“UHG’s ongoing carparking management will address informal parking that occurs along this route to ensure that no blockages occur,” the plan reads, adding that contractors will be required to park off site during construction.
Under the same planning application, permission has also been sought to retain the TED – originally designed as a ‘decant building’ to facilitate the provision of the new ED and Women and Children’s Block.
However, the Covid pandemic necessitated the ED element being expedited – that became the existing so-called ‘TED’.
The application also seeks the retention of a carpark with 24 spaces adjacent to the Public Analysts’ Laboratory – to off-set some of the spaces which were lost at the front of the hospital when the taxi rank and bus stop were relocated.
Members of the public can make submissions to the City Council on the plans until May 9 and a decision is due on May 30.
However, it is expected that the local authority will seek further information from the HSE at the point.
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.”
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).
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.