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Plan for massive student complex in shopping centre carpark billed as ‘ludicrous’



From the Galway City Tribune – A retail giant, a former mayor, a residents association and a cycling group have all lodged concerns about plans for a new seven-storey student flats development in the Westside.

An Bord Pleanála has delayed its decision on whether to grant permission to Westside Shopping Centre Limited to build the 240 bed-space complex in the car park of the Westside Shopping Centre fronting on to Seamus Quirke Road.

The decision was due on August 2, but a spokesperson for the planning appeals board confirmed to the Galway City Tribune that “a decision will be made as soon as is practicable”.

The Tribune has learned, however, that six public submissions were lodged with An Bord Pleanála about the plans, which were submitted as a Strategic Housing Development that bypasses the regular planning system.

Dunnes Stores, anchor tenant at Westside Shopping Centre, objected to the proposal on several grounds, including losing car space would impact on its viability.

“The proposed development will have a profound impact on the operation and viability of the Dunnes store in terms of the removal of a large number of parking spaces, adjacent to their store, on which the store relies to trade,” said consultants BMA Planning on behalf of Dunnes.

The Dunnes’ submission said the applicant underestimated the amount of car spaces that would be lost. BMA Planning said the proposed development will result in the loss of 94 car parking spaces, or 34% of the total available parking. It said that 52 spaces included by the applicant are not currently available to the public and are for staff use only.

Dunnes argued the parking loss “will have a negative impact on the vitality and viability of the district centre”, and will reduce the ratio of parking to less than its city centre counterparts.

Dunnes also expressed “grave concerns” about the lack of parking provided for the student residents of the new flats.

This will result in “competition for parking” between customers, patients of the nearby medical centre, and students.

Dunnes also said that the planned development requires an Environmental Impact Assessment to be carried out.

Claremont Park Residents Association said it would “impact extremely negatively” on the area.

Its submission said that seven-storeys was “completely out of character” with Westside where the tallest building is three-storeys.

Residents said they were concerned with the potential for additional noise and anti-social behaviour associated with student accommodation, which would be used for tourists in summer.

Residents said they feared that students living in the proposed building would “create nuisance” by parking in nearby estates; and they feared the implications, if the loss of parking space damaged the viability of Dunnes Stores and other shops at the centre.

Former Mayor of Galway, City Councillor Mike Cubbard (Ind), who was born and reared in Westside, said that the building will “negatively impact” the area.

He said he spoke for the “majority of my community”, in his submission where he termed the seven-storey plans “ludicrous”.

As well as noise, issues with short-term letting in established residential areas, and the scale of the proposal, Cllr Cubbard said he had “huge concerns” about the spill over of parking in nearby Camillaun, John Coogan, Gaelcarrig, Innishannagh, Claremont, and Corrach Buí housing estates.

Galway Cycling Campaign said it recognised the need for student accommodation, and was generally in favour of development at this location. It also said it supported high density residential developments if “appropriately serviced and accommodated”.

However, it said there were “aspects of the development as currently proposed which will reduce the attractiveness of cycling as a mode of transport for future residents”.

It included a number of recommendations to make cycling more attractive to future residents.

It concluded if the modifications were not made, “we do not believe that the proposed development is consistent with national, regional and local policy, and proper planning and sustainable development”.

The Irish Aviation Authority said the applicant should have to engage with the HSE over the potential impact the proposed development would have on the helicopter landings at University Hospital Galway.

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune, August 26. 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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