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CITY TRIBUNE

Shopping centre tenants voice concerns over café proposal

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Galway City Council has sought clarification from the owners of Westside Shopping Centre on the exact number of parking spaces in the centre and their usage, following a proposal for a standalone café in the carpark.

A total of 11 of the tenants of the centre – including anchors Dunnes Stores – have raised concerns about the impact on parking and potential traffic hazards which the café would cause.

Hurley Property ICAV, an investment vehicle which owns several shopping centres around the country, had sought permission for the single storey building alongside the McDonalds drive-thru in the carpark.

The café would have seating for more than 70 customers, and would, according to the application, remove 27 spaces from the carpark.

According to the applicants, there are 290 parking spaces in the main carpark, and a further thirteen to the rear of the centre.

However, an observation lodged with the Council on behalf of Peter Murphy Electrical, St Anthony & Claddagh Credit Union, Newsweek, Hair Republic, Evergreen, McSharry’s Pharmacy, Divilly’s Butchers, Rose Garden restaurant and the RSA Driving Test Centre points out that there are, in fact, 266 spaces to the front of the centre.

The submission noted that during a survey of the carpark, there was 80% occupancy at off-peak, and that traffic congestion within the carpark, as well at the junction with Bóthar le Chéile, would be further compounded by the café.

Concerns were also raised about 43 parking spaces inside a rear yard gate which do not have planning permission and that pedestrians walking to and from the café would pose a serious health and safety risk.

“The addition of another food outlet would significantly reduce the ability of the existing food outlets to trade profitably.

“The placing of the café in the centre of the carpark would result in the view to the centre from Seamus Quirke Road being restricted,” the submission reads.

Dunnes Stores objected to the application on the grounds of loss of parking spaces, potential traffic hazard and visual impact.

Michael O’Hehir of O’Hehir’s Bakery objected on the grounds of parking provision and that the café could have a negative impact on the ability of the shopping centre to provide its primary function as a retail centre.

Susan Corbett of Corrib Park also submitted an objection to the Council due to the impact she believes the café would have on parking and the safe access to and exit from the shopping centre.

“A visit to the site at peak times will demonstrate that cars trying to egress the centre are backed up along Bóthar le Chéile and back into the shopping centre, while trying to get onto the Seamus Quirke Road. This currently affects traffic flow around the existing carpark and in this context, there is a significant concern that the proposed new building will further impact on traffic flow,” she wrote.

According the application, the proposal is to construct a single storey free-standing café “in keeping with the upgrading of the shopping centre site and the continuing need to keep the centre relevant to today’s consumers”.

The building will be located within the existing carpark area facing onto Seamus Quirke Road. The existing pedestrian access is to be maintained. The café will be constructed along the existing pathway with the main entrance to the café accessed off this path.

“The building will be constructed in the modern vernacular with an open floor plan. The ceiling will be high and full height glazing will give an open bright retail space.

“It is considered that the proposed development would support the ongoing operation of the existing district centre through the construction of a high-quality development that would broaden the existing offering on site,” the application reads.

The applicants have until the end of November to respond to the Council or the plans will be deemed withdrawn.

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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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