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Plan for new Galway Rape Crisis Centre building stalls



Plans for a purpose-built Galway Rape Crisis Centre in the Claddagh have stalled after the City Council raised a series of ‘red flags’ – including environmental and flooding concerns, an unsuitable building design and encroachment onto neighbouring properties.

The Council also pointed out that the proposals are not those which were discussed during consultations before the planning application was lodged.

In May, GRCC sought planning permission to demolish its “substandard” former premises at 7 Claddagh Quay and to construct a three-storey building.

However, concerns were raised by neighbouring property owners – one resident said his single storey cottage would have most of its natural light blocked by the three-storey building for most of the day.

The operators of the adjoining Creaven House – from where Galway Judo Club operates – said they support GRCC and the services the charity provides.

They claimed the new building would encroach onto their property and involve removing gutters and fascia boards and altering a lower roof of their property without consent.

They added that they raised these concerns with representatives of GRCC at a meeting in June and asked them to withdraw the current planning application and submit a revised one which did not include their lands or encroach on their property.

“We wish to inform the planning authority that we have not and do not consent to any part of the lands owned by Creaven House Ltd being included in the planning application by GRCC . . . we respectfully ask that their application be deemed invalid,” the submission reads.

The City Council asked GRCC to comment on the submissions from the neighbouring property owners and to submit revised drawings where necessary.

The local authority said that while the proposed usage of the building is acceptable in principle, the design is at variance to plans presented to the Council during pre-application consultations.

“[It] is considered to represent a major intervention to the urban fabric along Claddagh Quay and is of an unsuitable contemporary design, with particular regard to the form, roof profile, expansive glazing and external materials of the building.

“It is considered that the building does not integrate well with the fabric or historic setting of the local area and would not positively contribute to the visual integrity of the streetscape,” the local authority said.

The charity has also been asked to submit a report which demonstrates that the development would not have a significant adverse impact on adjoining protected ‘Natura 2000’ environmental sites

The Council noted that the groundwater in the local area has “high vulnerability”.

The local authority also pointed out that the site is designated ‘Flood Zone A’ in the City Development Plan, but a Flood Risk Assessment included with the application states it is largely within the lower-risk ‘Flood Zone B’, and has sought clarification and full details on any proposed defence measures, including a flood wall.

Clarification has also been sought on car and cycle parking, as no information was provided.

The Council told GRCC to revise the plans, giving them six months to make the submission or the planning application will be deemed to be withdrawn.

GRCC is now the second biggest rape crisis centre in the country – it offered more than 4,000 appointments to victims of sexual abuse and assault in Galway, south Roscommon and north Clare last year – and currently operates from The Lodge on Forster Street (part of the Magdalen complex) but has been asked to vacate the premises by July 2021.

“As Galway is a university city and we have a large transient college and tourist population, we have to reach to an ever-changing cohort of clients. Our centre has grown to become the second biggest in the country.

“Our present location is part of the Magdalen Laundry complex, which consists of the laundry and a residential building which had previously been occupied by the surviving ladies from the laundry. In recent years, the Sisters of Mercy assigned our lease to COPE Galway, who have asked for us to vacate and return the building to them by July 2021.

“This location, while quiet, is also full of memories with concealment, shame and guilt. Many of our clients and visitors alike have commented on how “hidden” the building is.

“The proposed design for the new centre will have a strong street presence and visibility. However, we in GRCC will always work to maintain our clients’ confidentiality and privacy at all times.

“As our [other] building in the Claddagh can no longer house our growing service in its present form, we are applying to the City Council for permission to create a secure home for both our clients and counsellors.

“We need the help and support of our planning officers in the Council to establish a forward-thinking, accessible and secure home for our clients. We need to give all the survivors of sexual abuse a place to come for counselling that is bright, modern and safe because they deserve it,” the planning application reads.
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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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