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CITY TRIBUNE

200 turn out for meeting to oppose plans for Westwood Hotel

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“There is a need for student accommodation – but not in our estates, thank you very much; we have had enough.”

These words were met by rapturous applause at a meeting of around 200 Newcastle and Dangan residents last week opposed to the construction of 400 student bedrooms on the site of the Westwood Hotel.

The meeting entitled ‘Save the Westwood Hotel Campaign’ was told that unity would be needed to block the proposed development which would see the hotel knocked and high-density student digs built in its place.

In a show of hands, the attendees unanimously agreed that they were opposed to the construction of student accommodation on the site.

Chair of the meeting, Clifden Park resident Basil Fenton, outlined the details of a meeting with the committee of residents and new owners of the site, Ziggurat Student Investment Fund and Atelier.

“14 weeks ago, there was a meeting in the Westwood to discuss out plans – a committee was formed made up of volunteers and we have had eight meetings since then.

“On May 22, we met with the new owners – Atelier and Ziggurat – and we are here tonight to dispel some of the rumours floating around,” said Mr Fenton.

According to Mr Fenton, they were informed by Ziggurat co-founder, Matthew McAdden, that the purpose-built student accommodation would be leased to college students during term time and to language students for the two months of summer.

“Back in May, he reckoned the planning process would take three to four months and once the Council are happy, they will submit their planning application which they said would be sometime in August.

“They are assuming that they will start working on site in May or June of 2018,” he remarked.

Mr Fenton said that the committee had been told that the building would be four to five stories on one end and three to four stories on the other end,” he added.

It was suggested that to prepare the strongest possible objection to any planning application that is to emerge, expert help should be sought in the form of a planning consultant.

To do this, the committee is seeking €20 from each household in the area to cover any costs associated.

The committee expressed concern over new legislation as part of the government’s housing strategy – namely the fast-tracking of planning decisions on large-scale housing schemes by routing applications directly to An Bord Pleanála.

They feared that this option would be taken by developers to bypass Galway City Council’s planning process – however, all current indications are that the traditional route will be used.

It was claimed that a proportion of the site would need to be rezoned to allow for the construction of the new student facility.

All three city councillors who spoke at the meeting, namely Cllr Frank Fahy (FG), Cllr Ollie Crowe (FF) and Cllr Mark Lohan (SF), confirmed that they would block any attempt to rezone the site.

There was some dissent in the room over naming the campaign ‘Save the Westwood’ with some believing this was an impossible task now that the hotel has been sold.

One resident said: “I can’t for the life of me see why saving the Westwood is more important to blocking the construction of student accommodation – I think the main attack should be on the planning application for student accommodation.”

Mr Fenton said that the hotel was a very important amenity in the area and, with an aging population, it was vital that a facility like this was available locally.

It was pointed out at the meeting that a hand-delivered invitation to the meeting was brought to Non-Executive Chairperson of Atelier, Enda McGowan.

They said that despite earlier assurances that the company would engage with residents at all times, Mr McGowan was absent from the hall.

Ziggurat, a UK-based pension fund investment company, plans to construct 1,000 student beds in the city over the coming years.

The company has already constructed similar properties across the UK as well as in Cork and Dublin.

CITY TRIBUNE

‘Positive response’ to plan for new Wolfe Tone walkway

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From the Galway City Tribune – The submissions process in relation to the new pedestrian walkway to be put in place on the south side of Wolfe Tone Bridge has now closed.

The project – estimated to cost in the region of €1 million – is expected to start later this year once the Part 8 planning process – where the councillors will ultimately decide on whether to proceed – has been completed.

It will involve the provision of a 50-metre steel cantilever (no centre supports) walkway on the southern aspect of Wolfe Tone Bridge as well as a widening of the existing adjoining footpath.

A feature of the proposal will be the provision of a new signalised ‘rainbow pride’ pedestrian crossing on the eastern approach to the bridge.

According to Galway City Council Senior Engineer, Uinsinn Finn, the new pedestrian bridge crossing will be a major positive development in terms of facilitating the increasing numbers of people walking from the city centre towards the Claddagh/West area of the city.

“There has been a very positive response to the proposal for the provision of this extra pedestrian facility which will complement a similar walkway on the northern side of the bridge.

“The new signalised rainbow pride crossing on the eastern side of the bridge will also make it safer and improve access for pedestrians using this route,” said Mr Finn.

He added that the proposal would probably be coming up for approval at the September meeting of the City Council with plans for the new structure to begin shortly after.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway Greenway plan moves up a gear

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The design phase of the Galway to Oughterard Greenway will begin in 2023, Galway County Council has confirmed.

Several potential routes are now ‘on the table’ – with the information website for the project now ‘gone live’ until mid-July – to enable all interested parties to look at the options and make submissions.

David Joyce, Engineer with Aecom Consultants, said that the preferred route for the greenway was likely to emerge in the first quarter of 2023 followed by the design phase later in the year.

He told Conamara area councillors at a meeting that a cycle track would be part of the greenway – three metres wide for most of the route widening to five metres closer to the city.

Initially, the potential routes would have 200 metre corridors to ‘capture everything’, said Mr Joyce, but that width would be reduced in the final preferred option.

In response to queries from a number of councillors, he said that at least two to three of the options did not envisage using the current N59 roadway for the greenway.

“There will be extensive face-to-face consultations with the public before any decision on the final preferred route,” said Mr Joyce.

County Councillor Noel Thomas (FF) said that in his view it would be better if the greenway did not use the existing roads network while Cllr Eileen Mannion (FG) asked about the necessity for 200-metre-wide corridor options.

Cllr Tom Welby (Ind.) said that the Clifden to Oughterard section of the greenway would be using the old railway line route which only involved a corridor width of about 50 metres.

In the city, Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) said the project would serve as a route for cyclists and also as a tourist attraction.

“The delivery of the Conamara to Galway Greenway will bring so many benefits to Galway City and County. This week, this project moved a step closer and I hope there is progressive engagement with all stakeholders in the coming months.

“URDF (Urban Regeneration and Development Fund) funding was received last year for the development of a bridge along the pillars of the old Clifden Railway line at Woodquay. This is the proposed landing point for the Greenway coming into Galway city.

“This project can serve as both an active travel route for cyclists and also a major tourist attraction for visitors and I just hope it can progress and be delivered in the coming years,” said Cllr Hoare.

A total of €11 million in URDF funding was allocated last year for a pedestrian and cycle bridge across the River Corrib – along the buttresses for the old Clifden railway line, which is regarded as forming an integral part of the city’s cycle network.

(Image: an architect’s impression of how that cycle and walkway over the Corrib would look).

The Galway City Tribune is in shops every Friday, or to buy online HERE

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CITY TRIBUNE

Public order offences on the rise in Galway

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From the Galway City Tribune – Galway is headed in the wrong direction unless anti-social behaviour and public order problems are sorted, a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee has been told.

Former mayor Mike Crowe said: “There are too many people begging; there are too many people sleeping rough; and there are too many people drinking on the corner of the streets, organised drinking.”

The Fianna Fáil councillor said he was not surprised that the official Garda crime report had confirmed that public order offences detected in the first five months of this year were up by 26%.

That represented 46 additional cases compared with last year, bringing the total number of public order offences in the first five months of 2022 in Galway City to 225.

“It needs to be addressed; I think Galway is on a precipice,” he said.

Cllr Crowe said that the City Council, through various housing charities, had provided ample resources to ensure that homeless people were accommodated.

“There is no need to be sleeping rough,” he said. He added there was no need for tents to be erected along the city’s main shopping thoroughfare by rough sleepers.

Another former mayor, Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) agreed and suggested that some people who were sleeping rough were not homeless as all, and they were involved in ‘organised begging’. He claimed that many of those sleeping rough ‘were all gone off the streets by 3am and 4am’ when revellers have gone home. “They’re making a living at it [begging]”, he said.

Chair of the JPC, Cllr Níall McNelis (Lab) said if anyone had evidence that begging was being carried out by an organised gang then they needed to supply that information to Gardaí.

Garda Chief Superintendent Tom Curley agreed and said that evidence not rumour was needed in order to bring prosecutions and secure convictions.

Cllr Crowe and Cllr Fahy said the Garda presence at Eyre Square, 24-hours every day, was having a positive impact, and Chief Supt Curley said public order offences have reduced in the city centre since that additional resource was deployed to the Square.

Cllr Fahy, however, said that “public drinking and public urination” remained a problem.

Cllr Crowe welcomed a commitment from Superintendent Damien Flanagan, who was now responsible for policing Galway City, that a “permanent presence of Gardaí is in place in Eyre Square” and would remain there.

Supt Flanagan clarified that that meant a Garda or Gardaí would be in Eyre Square “at all times”.

He also said he was liaising with Galway City Council on some design issues in Eyre Square that could be changed to deter anti-social behaviour and discourage people from congregating there for drinking.

Chief Supt Curley said that he would prefer to use the Gardaí elsewhere but he acknowledged that a 24/7 Garda presence in Eyre Square was working, and would be deemed a success if it saved even one victim from suffering a serious assault.

There were 17 offences of ‘begging’ detected in the first five months of the year, down 29%.

Cllr Niall Murphy (Green) said begging in itself was “not a crime”, it was “a failure of society”.

The offence relates to people who are causing an obstruction or nuisance while begging; begging beside an ATM is also an offence.

The Galway City Tribune is in shops every Friday, or to buy online HERE

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