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CITY TRIBUNE

Bid to maintain airport runway is dismissed as ‘short-sighted’

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The chances of Galway ever regaining a viable commercial airport will be lost if the City Council continues to view it as a valuable land bank, councillors have claimed.

At a meeting of the local authority, Councillor Niall McNelis said it would be short-sighted for a growing city to let such a piece of infrastructure go.

Cllr Cathal Ó Conchúir agreed that if the runway was lost that it would be gone forever.

Members were reacting to a notice issued under Section 183 of the Local Government Act 2001, which would grant temporary leasehold on lands at Galway Airport, Carnmore, to Galway Flying Club Ltd. for the period of December 22 2017 to December 21 2018.

Tom Connell, Director of Services for Transportation, Recreation, and Amenity, stated that this would be “a temporary convenience” for both parties, allowing the Club use of the runway, part of the carpark, and the club house.

He added that the lease agreement would facilitate “ongoing development of the site”.

Cllr Peter Keane said that while he supported the notice, he asked that a three-year lease be afforded to the club. He added that it would be a sad day for Galway to see the airport lands unavailable for flying, and the extension would give the Club security of tenure.

City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, cautioned against the longer lease.

“The Club, as long as there is nothing else on the agenda, can continue to use it,” he said.

Members were told that the future of the 115 acres – bought in 2013 for just over €1m – was not envisaged to include flying.

“It was bought as a brownfield site, as the crow flies it’s 4.5km from Eyre Square, and is a very important transport corridor,” he said.

“It has been bought with huge potential – all uses have been considered, but it is a fundamentally important ground bank.”

He said that the tenure had been extended to the Club on a short-term basis, on the understanding that it would not continue if a “major economic project came forward”.

“We are currently involved in a tendering process for use of the hangars as TV hubs – there has been quite a bit of interest expressed on a short-term leasing basis,” Mr McGrath added.

He said that the issue of maintaining the runway – so that it could be viable for future use – was short-sighted, as the “extremely dated” equipment would cost in excess of €10m to bring it up to current requirements.

Furthermore, he said that the length of the runway would not accommodate anything bigger than a 14-seater jet.

“When the previous applicant was there, 62 aircraft landed in one year. A feasibility study two years ago, identified (suitable use as) a creative and film hub at the site. The hangars can be utilised on a short-term basis – TG4 used them for a 1916 documentary . . . the airport was identified in the Galway 2020 programme as a site where large-scale events can be held.

“There have been further proposals for the site, promoters are meeting with myself next week. The long-term use is most likely a brownfield economic development site.

“Given the nature of the enquiries, the proposal could materialise – now that the M18 is opened – I don’t want to tie your hands [with a longer lease]. I wouldn’t recommend a three-year contract in relation to current discussions.”

The site was bought as an investment with Galway County Council four years ago, and members heard that it costs each local authority €50,000 in annual running costs.

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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