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Angry Council executive and councillors round on An Bord Pleanála


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Angry Council executive and councillors round on An Bord Pleanála

From the Galway City Tribune – An Bord Pleanála has been accused of being ‘a basket case’ and ‘anti-Galway’ in terms of the city’s efforts to respond to the ongoing housing crisis.

Former mayor Cllr Niall McNelis (Lab) said at this week’s City Council meeting that at a time when people around the city were “desperately trying to put a roof over their heads”, the higher planning authority was either refusing or delaying key decisions on city housing developments.

“We are waiting months and months on a decision from An Bord Pleanála in relation to the provision of accommodation units at Merchants Road while other developments have been turned down.

“According to the latest report from Galway Simon, it will be 26-years before we achieve our housing targets and yet we have a basket case situation with Bord Pleanála who either refuse applications or won’t make a decision on them,” said Cllr McNelis.

He added that while there were projects on the long-term programme such as Sandy Road, Ceannt Station and the Black Box, these were ‘way, way off’ into the future.

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

Mayor of Galway, Cllr Clodagh Higgins (FG), said that while Galway wasn’t unique in terms of its housing needs, planning issues were seriously hampering the city’s efforts to tackle the accommodation crisis.

“I am really angry about this. I really do feel that An Bord Pleanála is anti-Galway in terms of refusing applications or in delaying decisions. We cannot have a body like that preventing the city from building houses,” said the Mayor.

Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) told Monday’s special meeting on housing at the Ardilaun Hotel that the planning framework ‘simply wasn’t working’.

“An Bord Pleanála’s refusal of housing developments and their delays in making decisions on projects is most frustrating for the city,” said Cllr Hoare.

According to Independent councillor Noel Larkin, one of the ways forward in terms of helping to resolve the housing crisis was the Ardaun Town development on the east side of the city which had the potential to deliver 4,000 homes.

Other issues raised by councillors in relation to the housing crisis included so-called ‘short lets’ or Airbns; a shortage of Council staff; the ‘slow’ refurbishment of voids [where tenants have left houses]; and the lack of smaller 1-bed and 2-bed social housing units.

Galway City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, said that he was both ‘surprised and disappointed’ at the Bord Pleanála decision to turn down planning applications for housing developments at Keeraun (Rahoon) and Castlegar.

“If these projects didn’t cut the mustard [meet the requirements] with An Bord Pleanála, then I just don’t know what lands can qualify.

“The Keeraun application was 20 months with An Bord Pleanála with no time limit on a decision, while the Castlegar development was also turned down, even though it’s only around a 25-minute walk from the city centre,” said Mr McGrath.

He also said that from a servicing point of view (water, sewage etc) there was nothing to stop the Ardaun development from going ahead.

The Chief Executive also stated that in terms of staff recruitment, the City Council – like all local authorities across the country – was finding it extremely difficult to recruit staff and especially technical personnel.

“The availability and affordability of accommodation in the city area is another major issue in terms of recruiting staff,” said Mr McGrath.

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