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Appeals Board approves new Aldi for Knocknacarra

Enda Cunningham

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The Planning Appeals Board has ignored the advice of one of its own senior inspectors and given the go ahead for a new Aldi supermarket and off licence in Knocknacarra.

Last May, following months of discussions, Galway City Council granted permission for a 1,540 square metre single-storey discount foodstore and off licence, as well as 93 parking spaces on the 1.6 acre site off the Western Distributor Road.

However, that decision was appealed by RGDATA – the group which represents small, family-owned businesses – on the grounds that retailing needs are already adequately serviced in the area and that it would adversely impact on the vitality and viability of the city centre as well as existing nearby outlets.

In his report to An Bord Pleanála, Senior Planning Inspector Robert Ryan said the building would represent a “poor quality form of development”.

“It is considered that the proposed development, by reason of its horizontal design emphasis, low scale, density and poor linkage when taken together with the creation of a large surface parking area, would represent a poor quality form of development in terms of visual amenity of property in the vicinity,” said Mr Ryan.

However, the Board over-ruled him, saying: “The height and design of the proposed retail unit would be acceptable within the context of a largely two storey residential hinterland.”

Planners ordered that the store can only operate between 9am and 9pm on Monday to Saturday and 10am to 7pm on Sundays.

“Any 24-hour operations shall be restricted to four weeks of each calendar year, the specific dates shall be submitted to the Planning Authority for written agreement in advance of commencement of trading, but shall be confined to times close to Christmas and Easter holiday period,” the Board said.

Restrictions have also been placed on construction hours, and any potential rock-breaking that may be required. Construction can only take place between 8am and 6pm on Monday to Friday and 9am to 1pm on Saturday. Rock-breaking schedules must be agreed with the Council in writing.

Wheel washing facilities must also be in place for construction machinery.

Vehicular access will be via the unnamed link road which links Bóthar Stiofáin and the ‘Gateway Galway’ retail centre (Dunnes, B&Q), and pedestrian access will be via that road and from the Distributor Road.

Permission already exists on the 1.6 acre greenfield site for a five-storey supermarket, offices and primary healthcare centre. However, Aldi admitted the plans are unviable as it cannot find a tenant for the medical facility. The plans were subsequently scaled back, but are valid until January 2019.

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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