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Residents voice concerns over aquatic centre plans



Residents close to Cappagh Park in Knocknacarra have expressed serious concerns about the potential impact of a proposed new aquatic centre for their locality that could attract up to 6,000 users per week.

In a submission to the City Council, the residents of the Lios Mór estate – that adjoins Cappagh Park – have warned that the proposed centre would be two to three times the size of the existing community centre.

“It would stretch from the side of the Community Centre, through the playground, and down towards the river.

“Consequently, green areas and trees on the site would be removed and parking, as we understand it for 192 cars, would be carved out,” the residents state.

For the proposed aquatic centre to go ahead, a variation of the City Development Plant, 2017-2023, will be required, to add in a ‘special development objective’ for the recreational and amenity zoned Cappagh Park lands.

A spokesperson for the City Council told the Galway City Tribune that submissions in regard to this variation had closed on August 31.

“A report is now being prepared by the Chief Executive [Brendan McGrath] for submission to the Council within the next six weeks, which will be discussed at a full meeting of the City Council,” said the City Council spokesperson.

One of the main concerns of local residents relates to parking and traffic issues where problems already exist with matches and training sessions in the adjoining playing fields.

“With the number of daily users predicted, it is inevitable that all estates surrounding Cappagh Park would be over-run with traffic at all times if the development went ahead,” the residents state.

They also point to environmental issues such as the current designation of the site as an area of special conservation [SAC] and the need to protect local flora and fauna in Cappagh Park.

Residents in their submission also point to health and safety issues relating to traffic; possible anti-social behaviour; and the viability of the new facility, given that there are seven other swimming pools and fitness centres within 5km of Cappagh Park.

They have also suggested that an alternative to the Cappagh Park site would be the possible redevelopment of Leisureland – also due to be developed and extended over the next 15 years.

“We contend that this [Leisureland] would be a better site for the proposed aquatic and fitness centre – it is larger, more accessible, has better parking and is in a public area,” the residents state.

Local area councillor, Donal Lyons, said that while the aquatic centre development was a very ambitious and exciting one for the area, the very real concerns of local residents had to be addressed comprehensively.

“The proposed aquatic and water polo facility is one with a lot of potential for Galway but what is absolutely essential is that all the concerns of local residents are taken on board and dealt with openly and clearly,” said Cllr. Lyons.

Some estimates put the cost of the aquatic centre project in at between €11m and €15m, with a large chunk of the funding coming from the national Large Scale Sports Infrastructural Fund (total €100m).

The aquatic centre would consist of a 34 x 25 metre pool, capable of hosting water polo matches as well as a state-of-the-art gym, fitness studios, café, extended car-park and ancillary facilities.

The national sports fund has already made a preliminary provision of €23m for the redevelopment of the Galway Sportsground as the home ground for Connacht Rugby.


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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