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Call for unity as details of flood funding revealed

Declan Tierney

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Some of the State’s main agencies are to be approached over the coming weeks in a desperate effort to try and resolve the flooding disaster in South Galway.

This comes in a week that saw confirmat that Gort area has received 75% of the special allocation awarded by the Government to address the damage to roads as a result of the flooding. This month’s meeting of Loughrea area councillors was told that €1.14m has been granted for road upgrades in the Gort Engineering Area as a result of recent flooding – out of €1.5m in total across the district and €6m to the county.

But at the same time, around 200 people attended a meeting in Gort to discuss what action to take to avoid a repeat of last winter which left hundreds of acres under water and several main roads closed to traffic.

Recently it was announced that €6.5 million has been allocated for the Dunkellin drainage scheme but there are two other smaller projects that could be completed before the end of the year if funding was made available.

Galway East TD Ciaran Cannon said that it was now time that there was a unified approach to resolving the flooding problem that has bedeviled the Gort and South Galway area for decades.

Deputy Cannon explained that €400,000 was being sought for the Kiltiernan to Ballinderreen scheme with €700,000 required to provide a permanent channel from Cahermore to the sea in Kinvara.

The meeting was attended by fellow Galway East TDs Sean Canney and Anne Rabbitte as well as councillors Joe Byrne, Mogie Maher and Gerry Finnerty.

Local researcher David Murray has carried out an indepth analysis of flooding in each locality made a presentation to the meeting and Deputy Cannon then invited contributions from the floor. He stressed that local knowledge was critical to solving flooding problems across South Galway.

It was agreed that agencies like Galway County Council, the Office of Public Works, the National Parks and Wildlife and Coillte should be invited to a round table discussion to try and resolve the flooding crisis and try and secure the necessary funding.

“In two hours we learned a lot about how we are going to approach this challenge but above all, we learned that if we work together and pool all of our talents and knowledge we will be a powerful force to be reckoned with.

“In the past when the state got involved in major infrastructure projects such as flood relief, locals were never consulted or involved in identifying solutions.

“This time we want to turn that process on its head and we are adamant that local knowledge will form part of the solution. We are also committed to keeping everyone informed of every development along the way”, Deputy Cannon added.

Speaking at the Loughrea Municipal Area meeting, Councillor Joe Byrne said the large allocation for the Gort Area of €1.138m confirms the devastation caused by the flooding in the South Galway area generally.

“The works primarily comprise of making permanent the raising of roads which were temporarily provided during the flooding crisis to maintain roads open where possible,” he stated.

“It will also ensure that the necessary accommodation works are provided to adjoining lands and homes for owners adjacent to the works. Safety mitigation works will be provided by providing crash barriers and the rebuilding of walls.”

Among the projects earmarked for restoration are Ballyboy, Ardrahan €60,00; Loughanawadda, Peterswell €60,000: Caherglaussaun €76,000; Golf Road in Gort €78,000; Mannin Cross €55,000; Tierneevin Area €84,000; Cahermore/Caheravoneen €108,000.

The rest of the allocation will fix damage around Loughrea, Crinnage and Portumna.

Councillor Byrne also confirmed that a second application will be made to the department next week for additional funding.

“I believe that this should focus on roads which have deteriorated as a result of being used as detours during the recent flooding. An example of this is the Ballymaquiff/ Coolfin Road in Ardrahan which has been damaged.”

He welcomed the road restoration and resurfacing of the Ballinabucky Road near Kilcolgan in recent weeks, which cost in the region of €120,000.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site

Dara Bradley

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An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.

The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.

It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.

In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.

“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”

The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.

A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.

A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.

It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.

Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.

The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.

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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG student accommodation firm records loss

Enda Cunningham

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The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.

However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.

Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.

The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.

Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.

The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.

Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.

Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.

The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).

The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.

It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.

As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.

It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.

In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan

Dara Bradley

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Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.

Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.

The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.

It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.

Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.

Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.

“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”

The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.

He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.

“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.

“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.

“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.

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