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Overhaul plan for Ceannt Station set to be progressed



Iarnród Éireann has revived plans for a multi-million euro overhaul of Ceannt Station – which includes extended platforms for increased services, new glazed entrances and modern retail units.

The State-sponsored body has been told that the National Transport Authority (NTA) will fund 50% of the cost of the scheme and an application will be made under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF).

The project was originally granted planning permission in 2014, but was shelved in 2015 after funding was withdrawn by the NTA.

It is a separate scheme to the proposed new ‘urban quarter’ on eight acres of land beside the railway station, for which developer Gerry Barrett has been awarded the contract.

With planning permission on the station’s expansion set to expire in August, Iarnród Éireann has applied to Galway City Council for an ‘Extension of Duration’ on the permission for a period of five years. As a general rule, planning permissions expire after five years if a project is not constructed.

The company has now indicated that it expects the scheme can be completed by the end of 2023.

“Funding for construction of the development was to come from the NTA with an anticipated draw-down date of mid-2015. Funding was withdrawn in early 2015. This was beyond the control of Iarnród Éireann.

How Ceannt may look

“The NTA has confirmed [this month] that 50% of funding will be available from them for this project. Our intention is for the remaining 50% to come from the URDF,” the City Council was told.

The plans involve the extension of the existing bay platform to allow for six-car Inter City trains and the construction of a new 200m full-length platform; modern retail units, new glazed entrances and state-of-the-art ticketing areas at the train and bus station.

It is also proposed to construct a new 1,000 square foot single-storey glazed entrance building on the northern side of the station and an extension to the north-eastern bay platform.

The plans involve some demolition works and removal of walls within the train station to provide additional ticket purchase facilities, enlarged concourse areas, new toilet facilities and new ticket inspector accommodation.

On the southern side of the building, the existing stores and maintenance area will be refurbished to provide 25,000 sq ft of space with new entrance plazas and glazed entrances, and an extended train concourse and platform.

There will also be glazed retail ‘pods’ as well as a new toilet block.

When the original application was approved, planners ordered that a Conservation Architect and qualified archaeologist monitor the works to ensure the preservation of features or other objects of archaeological interest. Irish Rail were also been ordered to introduce a management regime to ensure the carpark is restricted to the travelling public, including the ticketing and exiting mechanism.

They added that the permission should not be interpreted as prejudicing the future redevelopment of the site, or the feasibility of providing a rail link to Galway Harbour lands.

The City Council is expected to make a decision in August on the application for more time to construct the scheme.

Rationale behind Irish Rail’s plans

“The existing station public area in Ceannt Station is undersized to accommodate the level of public at present, it consists of only two dedicated rooms, the entrance lobby and the waiting room,” according to Iarnród Éireann planning documentation.

“This proposal is cognisant to the future development of a second full platform and makes passive space for this long-term objective. It allows for a phased approach in achieving this with initial phases being possible without impeding later on more extensive refurbishment.

“This increase in area will provide sorely-needed internal waiting and circulation space and allow Ceannt Station to become a more accessible and attractive location for bus and rail passengers.

“The proposal is to link all areas of the existing station building as much as possible, this will allow circulation from the existing entrance through to the new interchange link and into the extended public areas.

“The existing Iarnród Éireann and Bus Éireann ticket offices will be reconfigured to create a larger ticket hall and fully-accessible ticket counter. Additional ticket vending machines will be installed also.

“It is proposed to create additional passenger areas in the vacant Bus Éireann stores and garage area. The space available in this area is approximately 1,600 square metres. It is envisaged that this area will provide a combined waiting area and retail spaces.

“It is proposed to open and glaze the existing stone wall arches, this will create a colonnaded entrance from the southern side of the station.

“A new entrance from the car park side is proposed, this area will be glazed and screened from the platform areas. It will consist of a raised podium level, this is level with the station platforms.”


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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