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Cairn Homes loses bid to keep Knocknacarra land off Vacant Sites Register

Enda Cunningham



A property company – backed by some of the biggest financiers and investment funds in the world – has failed in its bid to prevent a site it owns in Knocknacarra being added to the Vacant Sites Register.

The ruling by An Bord Pleanála means that Cairn Homes Properties Ltd is liable to pay a levy of 7% of the market value of the site at Upper Ballymoneen Road for 2019 and each subsequent year it lies undeveloped.

The site was valued at €400,000 earlier this year, meaning the company already owes the Council €28,000 for 2019.

The Vacant Sites Register came into effect in 2018 – it is designed to force builders to develop their residential landholdings in areas where there is a need for housing and the site is lying idle.

Under the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, the City Council formed the opinion that the greenfield site – beside the Fana Buí estate – had been vacant for a minimum of 12 months.

The Council said that housing supply remained below demand requirements despite the upturn in construction (before the Covid-19 outbreak).

“The scale of unmet housing needs has grown over the period of the previous and current City Development Plan and requires an increase in housing output,” the Council said.

Cairn Homes subsequently appealed that decision to An Bord Pleanála and said the site formed part of a larger landholding on the western side of the Ballymoneen Road for which they were planning an application under Strategic Housing Development legislation, where plans for more than 100 homes or 200 student bed spaces are lodged directly with An Bord Pleanála rather than the local authority.

The company said the proposed N6 Galway City Ring Road bisects the northern section of the site and without a detailed design of the road, it could not progress the planning application.

The Council told the Board that Cairn Homes had sufficient information on the ring road to allow them advance a planning application – details of site access were provided by Arup, the consultants behind the ring road plan.

However, the Board ruled that the site is vacant, paving the way for it to be added to the register.

“It is evident that the bypass route does not directly impact upon the subject vacant site. The subject site is accessible from the Ballymoneen Road and, therefore, is not reliant on the bypass for access.

“I am not satisfied that an application for residential development could not be progressed on the subject lands pending the resolution of the final layout of the bypass if approved.

“Development could be progressed on a phased basis in accordance with an overall masterplan, with a first phase on the subject site. This in my view would not constitute piecemeal development.

“It is also detailed that the appellant has been proactively progressing a masterplan for the site and has carried out a number of surveys including topographical survey, site investigations, ecological assessment and archaeological assessment and, therefore, that the lands are not idle. Having regard to the nature of the surveys described by the appellant, I am satisfied that these do not constitute development works. The lands remain vacant or idle,” Senior Planning Inspector Erika Casey ruled.

Major investors in Cairn Homes – where the former CEO of KBC Bank serves on the board – include Moore Capital, which is operated by Wall Street billionaire Louis Bacon; JP Morgan Asset Management; Lansdowne Partners and GLG Partners, some of the biggest investment fund managers in Britain.

Cairn’s CEO and founder is Michael Stanley, a director and former CEO of Stanley Holdings – the company behind the controversial Belmayne development in North Dublin, which was launched at the height of the boom in 2007 by footballer Jamie Redknapp and his popstar wife, Louise.


Council to consider new pedestrian ‘plaza’ for Galway City

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors will be asked next month to consider a sweeping overhaul of traffic flow in the city centre as the local authority seeks to create a more pedestrian-friendly core in the wake of Covid-19.

Currently under proposal in City Hall are major alterations to traffic flow which will allow for restricted car access to Middle Street – creating additional outdoor seating space for businesses in the area struggling to cope amid social distancing requirements.

Senior Engineer at City Hall, Uinsinn Finn, said they are currently considering three different proposals to alter traffic flow on Merchants Road, Augustine Street and Flood Street to reduce the need for car access to Middle Street, while still maintaining access for residents.

“We already pedestrianised Cross Street and we will be maintaining that, and there will be a proposal for Middle Street and Augustine Street.

“Businesses in the area are very much in favour of pedestrianisation – one business has objections but the others are supportive. Another consideration is that there are residents there with parking spaces and we are trying to encourage people to live in the city centre,” said Mr Finn.

The Latin Quarter business group submitted proposals for the temporary pedestrianisation of Middle Street and Abbeygate Street Lower but Mr Finn said the proposals the Council were considering were more in the line of creating adequate space for pedestrians while still allowing residents vehicular access.

This would involve creating a circuit for car traffic moving through Merchants Road around onto Augustine Street and exiting at Flood Street.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Residents want laneway closed following pipe bomb scare

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Residents in part of Knocknacarra are calling for the closure of a laneway and for more Community Gardaí to be put on the beat following the discovery of a ‘viable’ pipe-bomb type device in the area last weekend.

Up to 13 homes in the Cimín Mór and Manor Court estates had to be evacuated on Friday evening last when the incendiary device was discovered by Gardaí concealed in an unlit laneway, leading to the emergency services being notified.

An Army EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit was called to the scene and removed the device – according to local residents and councillors, the Gardaí have confirmed that the device was viable.

Gardaí have declined to comment on the detail of the case but have confirmed that the matter is being ‘actively and vigorously investigated’.

Chairman of the Cimín Mór Residents’ Association, Pat McCarthy, told the Galway City Tribune that the discovery of the viable device on the narrow laneway that links their estate to Manor Court was extremely frightening for all concerned.

“For the best part of the past 20 years, we have been seeking action to be taken on this laneway which has been used for dumping and unsociable behaviour on a repeated basis.

“But what happened last Friday evening was really the last straw for us. This could have resulted in serious injury to innocent people and what is also of concern to us is how close this was to the two schools in the area,” said Mr McCarthy.

He said that over the coming days, the residents’ association would be petitioning all residents in the three estates concerned – the other two being Manor Court and Garraí Dhónaill – for action to be taken on the laneway.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Galway designer’s necklace is fit for a princess!

Denise McNamara



Kate Middleton wearing the necklace designed by Aisling O'Brien

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A Galway jewellery designer is the latest to experience the ‘Kate effect’ after fans tracked down the woman who created a necklace for the Duchess of Cambridge which she has worn several times since it was gifted to her during her trip to the city last March.

Aisling O’Brien’s website crashed on Wednesday night when orders poured in for the piece from around the world. The necklace costs €109 with initials, while the earrings retail for €49.

“I’d never sold more than two things outside of Ireland before. I only had three of Kate’s necklaces in stock – and now I have orders for at least 50. I’ll have to start recruiting some elves,” laughs Aisling, who only set up her website during lockdown.

The 14-carat gold necklace and earrings set was designed by Aisling specially for Kate after examining her style – “understated, elegant, simplicity” is how the Tuam native describes it.

She was contacted about the commission by physiotherapist Thérèse Tully, who wanted to give the future queen a gift as she was using her room to change at Árus Bóthar na Trá beside Pearse Stadium when the royal couple were meeting with GAA teams.

(Photo: Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton wearing the necklace)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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