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Connacht Tribune

Call to demolish eyesore buildings – and hit owners with costs

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Ballinasloe continues to improve its Tidy Towns marks year-on-year – but one local Councillor fears that future progress will be stymied by the number of derelict sites and buildings in the town.

And Cllr Dermot Connolly urged Galway County Council to knock buildings that have fallen into a serious state of disrepair – and levy the cost of this against the owner.

Senior Engineer Fran McEvoy told a meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council that the marks that the town had received in the Tidy Towns Competition had improved again and that this was to be welcomed.

He said that there had been year on year improvements in the Tidy Towns performance as far as Ballinasloe was concerned and paid tribute to the voluntary organisations and Council staff who made this happen.

While Cllr Connolly welcomed the improved performance, he expressed concern over the number of derelict sites in Ballinasloe and some of there were in Council ownership.

There were also a lot of private derelict sites and houses in which the owners did not ‘give two hoots’ about the impact they were having on neighbouring properties.

The Sinn Fein councillor said that it was not acceptable for residents to be living beside empty and rundown properties that regularly attract vermin.

Cllr Connolly is advocating that the Council take ownership of there long-term derelict sites and properties and either knock them or refurbish them for their own use.

“These are eyesores in our town and it is not acceptable. We have to determine what powers we have in terms of taking ownership of these properties,” Cllr Dermot Connolly added.

Meanwhile, Cllr Michael Connolly believes that these derelict and rundown properties should be knocked down by the council and that the cost of this be charged to the estate of the owners.

“Some of these houses may have been destroyed by fire in the past and just left there without any regard for those living next door. We cannot tolerate this anymore.

“The Council have to be proactive and come to terms with this situation and if they have to knock them down, so be it and there is a facility there to recoup the costs,” the Fianna Fail councillor added.

Cllr Connolly said that the number of derelict houses was also a problem in both Ahascragh and on towards Tuam.

Director of Services Alan Farrell said that it was not a lack of desire on the part of the Council to address the issue of derelict sites but the local authority has difficulties with regard a lack of staff and finance at the moment.

Connacht Tribune

‘Give even one big GAA game to Ballinasloe’

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It’s the most centrally located ground in the country but Ballinasloe’s Duggan Park won’t host a single inter-county match this year – much to the annoyance of one local councillor who wants the GAA to allocate at least one big game to the venue.

Cllr Michael Connolly told a meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council that the ground is entitled to host major football and hurling fixtures – even though all but one of the Galway footballers’ home league games are assigned to Pearse Stadium with the other one in Tuam.

“If they gave us one match in Duggan Park, it would be something,” he said. “But at the moment, it seems as if it is being ignored.”

The Moylough councillor described it as the most accessible ground in the country and a venue in which players and supporters like to travel to – unlike, he suggested, Pearse Stadium.

He said that it was “a hateful venue” and few GAA supporters relished the prospect of travelling to the “far side of the city” to watch a football or hurling match.

A recent meeting in Gullane’s Hotel to discuss Duggan Park was attended by Deputy Denis Naughton, Senator Aisling Dolan, Cllr Evelyn Parsons and Cllr Declan Kelly among others.

But the Duggan Park Committee then issued a statement saying that the ground is owned by Galway GAA and any use of the facility needed to be authorised – and no authorisation was given to the meeting organiser, former Mayor of Ballinasloe Joe Kelly, for this purpose.

Mr Kelly has been a staunch campaigner for the redevelopment of Duggan Park and has called on the local authority to row in behind this initiative.

They went on to say that there is a plan in place for the development of Duggan Park which is multiple staged which started with the new dressing rooms, flood lights and a new entrance to the venue.

Planning permission is in place for this development and that €500,000 has already been spent in the Duggan Park over the past number of years carrying out these projects.

The work in the ground, they say, is done to an excellent standard by local contractors with the support of the previous Town Council for grants and sports capital grants.

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Connacht Tribune

Former tourism magnet officially on register of derelict sites

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The fire-ravaged hotel that was once one of the most popular in the county is now officially considered a derelict site – and that has led a local councillor to call for it to be either redeveloped or levelled.

Portumna’s Shannon Oaks Hotel, for so long popular with anglers and golfers in particular, has been boarded up for more than a decade since it was destroyed by fire.

Local councillor, Jimmy McClearn, has called on the owners to reopen or sell the property – adding that it should either be levelled or redeveloped.

“We are a tourist town and we need a hotel. The last thing we want is for a hotel to be shut up,” he said.

“It is a fine facility and on an extensive site so there is no reason why it should be boarded up,” he added.

The Shannon Oaks saga has gone on for the past twelve years – but now the owners, the multi-millionaire Comer brothers, will be forced to pay a derelict site levy if they do not reopen or redevelop.

That amounts to a seven per cent levy based on the market value of the property, which is worth around €1 million even in its derelict state.

The Shannon Oaks was ravaged by fire in September 2011 and four years later, the site was acquired by the Comer Group who, at the time, gave an undertaking that it would be reopened.

Around two years ago, planning permission was granted by Galway County Council to Barry Comer of the Comer Group to renovate the hotel by providing 60 new bedrooms along with 40 apartments to the rear of the structure.

However, there has been little or no movement on the site since then and now the owners are being again asked to give some indication as to when the hotel will be rebuilt.

It is considered an integral part of the tourism industry for the town and that is why pressure is mounting on the owners to rebuild the hotel.

Cllr McClearn said that all he is asking for is the owners to develop the site and provide a hotel there. “It’s not much to ask in a tourist town,” he added.

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Connacht Tribune

More than €200,000 worth of cannabis seized in East Galway

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More than €200,000 worth of cannabis was seized in during two separate search operations in East Galway on Saturday.

Gardai from the Divisional Drugs Unit conducted a search at a residence in Aughrim and seized cannabis plants with an estimated street value of €146,000 and €20,000 worth of cannabis herb which will now be sent for analysis.

Two men (both in their 30s) were arrested at the scene in connection with the investigation and are currently detained at Galway Garda station under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drug Trafficking) Act, 1996.  Both men remain in custody.

A separate search was carried out at a residence in Ballinasloe yesterday afternoon and cannabis herb with an estimated street value of €35,000 was seized. Cannabis jellies and €7,510 in cash were also seized.

A man in his 40s was arrested and later released without charge and a file will be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

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