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CITY TRIBUNE

Proposal to extend pedestrianised zones in Galway city centre

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Plans to pedestrianise large swathes of the city centre should look to do more than just create space for ‘wining and dining’, a meeting of Galway City Council heard this week.

On foot of a motion from Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF), seeking to make permanent the temporary nature of Cross Street’s closure to car traffic, a number of local representatives raised the prospect of further pedestrian zones in the city core.

Cllr Owen Hanley (Soc Dem) said there had long been reference made to the ‘public realm strategy’, “but by and large, only the Small Crane and Woodquay have been looked at for increased pedestrianisation”.

“There has been frustration with how [temporary pedestrianised zones] are not working for a number of residents.

“The Small Crane is not a public amenity area – it’s an outside dining area,” he said, adding that future and long-term plans should focus more on providing spaces for residents and not just business patrons.

Cllr John Connolly (FF) said he agreed with Cllr Hanley that a more long-term strategy was required.

“It is a bit meaningless doing this is an ad hoc manner . . . we should be getting more regular updates on how the public realm strategy is advancing,” said Cllr Connolly.

Cllr Cheevers, who was seeking to permanently designate Cross Street – from Supermac’s as far as the Dáil Bar – a pedestrian area, suggested that it should serve as a template of how to carry out these changes.

The method of trialling street closures on a temporary basis before making them permanent had proven successful on Cross Street, he said.

“Hopefully, in the future we will see more roads get full-time pedestrianised in the city,” said Cllr Cheevers.

Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said while he didn’t oppose Cllr Cheevers’ motion, he had concern around public consent for such measures and proposed that such changes should first be considered by the Council’s Strategic Policy Committee on Transport, of which he is chairperson.

He said all businesses in the city needed to be considered when making such changes and not just those in hospitality.

“The inner part of our city is, I won’t say dying, but is struggling. A lot of people will tell you that they are going to Athlone or Limerick to shop because they don’t want to come into the heart of our city.

“It’s not all about wining and dining . . . there are other businesses too,” said Cllr Fahy.

The Mayor, Colette Connolly, said a more ‘holistic’ view of pedestrianisation needed to be carried forward as moves to close roads in other areas were considered.

“I am totally in favour of pedestrianising large parts of the city.

“We have seen issues in Raven Terrace and Woodquay . . . it should not just be about accommodating individual businesses for dining and drinking. We need to look at this in a more holistic way,” said Cllr Connolly.

Cllr Níall McNelis (Lab) said he supported the move to permanently close Cross Street to traffic outside designated hours, but said further plans were needed for areas such as Woodquay and Dominick Street.

“We already noted that pedestrianisation last year saved a lot of businesses in the city and it is also making Galway completely different to other areas,” he said, adding that increased pedestrianisation brought greater numbers into areas of the city that really needed it.

“It’s about getting footfall into a number of areas and making it safe.

“It gives a hook to get people off just the main thoroughfare and into other areas of the city,” he said.

Cllr Cheevers motion was put on hold, on foot of a commitment from City Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath to bring before councillors a report looking at the overall impact of pedestrianisation in the city.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway ‘masterplan’ needed to tackle housing and transport crises

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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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CITY TRIBUNE

Official opening of Galway’s new pedestrian and cycle bridge

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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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CITY TRIBUNE

Minister branded ‘a disgrace’ for reversing land rezoning in Galway City

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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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