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City Council set to vote on overhaul of development levy scheme



NUIG's Goldcrest Village accommodation complex: the project would have been liable for an estimated €1m in development levies, but the scheme was exempt under existing Council rules.

Galway City’s third level institutes face paying development fees for the first time under new plans being considered by councillors.

Under the new Draft Development Contribution Scheme, if passed, NUIG and GMIT would have to pay development levies on the construction of any new building projects, including student accommodation.

Historically, GMIT and NUIG were exempt from local development levies but the Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, and city planners, have proposed the introduction of a charge on third level educational-related development.

The proposed new scheme for 2021-27 would also result in an increase in levies imposed on developers of non-residential developments – in some case the increased could be more than double the existing rate.

And while the new scheme would push up the price of building larger homes in Galway City, it is proposing to lower the development levy on smaller homes and apartments.

Development levies are taxes on construction collected by local councils and used to pay for public infrastructure and facilities such as transport, recreation, community, and flood relief.

At the latest City Council meeting, Emma Silke, Administrative Officer with the Planning Department, gave an overview of the new proposed new Development Contribution Scheme.

Ms Silke said the new scheme proposes a flat rate charge of €90 per square metre of residential development.

She said this would result in extra development charges on four-bedroom semi-detached houses but smaller levies on smaller homes.

Under the existing regime, residential units over 125 square metres would be levied €10,831; this would increase by €419 or 3.9% to €11,250 in the new scheme.

Residential units of between 73-125 sq m are currently levied €9,739, and this would fall by 7.6% to €9,000 under the new plan. Residential units smaller than 73 square metres currently attract a development levy of €8,639, which would fall by €2,069 or 24% to €6,570.

Development levies for non-residential range from €41-€20 per square metre; but the new scheme would introduce a flat rate charge of €50 per metre square. She said that the new scheme “includes waivers for lower intensity uses” for non-residential construction.

Ms Silke said that the lower contribution for smaller homes was to encourage “compact growth and higher densities”.

The current Development Contribution Scheme in Galway City has been in place since 2008, with a change in 2014 to take out water and waste water charges. The new scheme must consider climate mitigation measures.

It was “timely” now to revisit the charges, to coincide with the review of new City Development Plan that is underway, she said.

City Council Senior Planner Caroline Phelan said that Galway “was out of kilter” with other local authorities who do apply development levies to third level institutes.

“They do have an income,” she said, and mentioned student registration fees.

Ms Phelan added that there was no reason why student accommodation should be exempt from development levies because they’re commercial entities that charge students rents.

Ms Phelan clarified that the State’s primary and secondary schools were not levied but fee-paying schools were.

She was responding to Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) who said he would not be in favour of levying NUIG or GMIT. Cllr McDonnell said the levies could add €50,000 or €60,000 to the cost of a new third-level educational building.

Cllr Terry O’Flaherty (Ind) was told a waiver for third level educational could be passed by councillors but that was not the recommendation of planners as set out in the scheme.

Cllr Colette Connolly (Ind) and Owen Hanley (SD) expressed alarm at the number of exemptions contained in the new scheme.

Councillors were told that just one submission was received from the public. This was from developer Gerry Barrett, but Ms Phelan said it related to the existing scheme rather than the proposed one.

When asked why there had been such little engagement from the public, Ms Phelan said that the proposal was out on public display for eight weeks, and was advertised on the Council’s website.

Developers and construction industry representatives would usually make submissions on such changes and she posited that perhaps the reason they did not this time was because they agreed with the changes.

Councillors will discuss the matter and vote on the proposal at the next meeting.



Cost of new Emergency Dept in Galway jumps to half a billion euro



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The projected cost for the new Emergency Department and maternity unit at University Hospital Galway (UHG) has now reached half a billion euro.

And the bureaucracy involved in getting it off the ground means its expected completion has been pushed back until 2027 at the earliest.

The project – described by the head of the Saolta University Healthcare Group, Tony Canavan, as the single largest infrastructural health project ever to be built in the West – still has some major hurdles to overcome before a shovel is put into the ground.

In an update at this week’s HSE Regional Health Forum West meeting, Councillor Declan McDonnell (IND) remarked that 2026 was the predicted opening for the new facility, yet the planning application had not even been submitted.

“Could it be ten more years?” he asked.

Councillors heard that a new Public Spending Code was brought in for projects predicted to cost over €100 million after the Saolta group had submitted a cost benefit analysis review which they were required to do under the old rules.

As a result of the change, management had to belatedly prepare a Strategic Assessment Report and a ‘Preliminary Business Case’ report. The first had been submitted to the national HSE last month and the latter was almost ready to send to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Assistant National Director of Estates in the HSE, Joe Hoare, said the final figure for the project would be “four to five times the €100m figure”.

(Photo: The temporary Emergency Dept under construction at the moment at UHG)

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see the May 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Street closures for outdoor dining in Galway challenged to An Bord Pleanála



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – An appeal has been lodged with An Bórd Pleanála challenging the legitimacy of road closures to facilitate hospitality businesses in Galway City this summer.

Galway City Council, following on from last year’s trial of on-street hospitality, introduced street closures again this year.

It is part of the Council’s ‘outdoor living’ strategy to encourage more footfall and to boost businesses – in particular pubs and restaurants – in the city centre.

The local authority has closed Small Crane, Raven Terrace, Dominick Street Upper, William Street West, Forster Street and Woodquay during certain hours in the evenings from May to October.

But a resident of Munster Avenue has referred the closures to An Bórd Pleanála and asked that it determine whether the closures constitute development and whether or not it is ‘exempted development’.

Exempted development does not require planning permission. If the Board finds that the closures are development and that the development was not ‘exempted’, then the street closures and the process they were introduced under, could be undermined and deemed to be contrary to planning laws.

An Bórd Pleanála confirmed the case had been referred to it for adjudication but it said it does not comment on ‘live’ cases. It is due to make a decision by September. The appellant who referred the case could not be contacted for comment.

Johnny Duggan, owner of Taylor’s Bar, member of West End Traders’, and chair of the Galway City Vintners’ Association, insisted the street closures were exempted development did not require planning permission and it was all above board.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see the May 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.


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Two tonnes of waste in canal – ‘the cost of outdoor living’ in Galway



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Two tonnes of waste removed from the Claddagh Basin and Eglinton Canal during a clean-up last weekend is the cost of the pandemic transition to outdoor lifestyles, according to a Galway City Council official.

“Unfortunately, there has been an environmental cost to the outdoor lifestyles adopted during the pandemic. From the recent clean-up, we took out a huge amount of pint glasses, beer and wine bottles, bikes and even shopping trolleys. We all need to do our bit and use the bins provided in the city and not throw anything into the watercourses,” said Tiarnan McCusker, Environmental Awareness Officer for the Council.

Mr McCusker said that during the pandemic there was a “huge increase” in litter across the country, including in Galway City.

In response to this, the Council installed more bins in locations across the city and increased the size of the bins.

Mr McCusker attributed the amount of waste to the groups gathering outdoors during the pandemic.

“A lot of people were out drinking and congregating in the canals and generating a huge amount of waste by throwing things into them,” he said.

Councillor Niall McNelis – who is also chair of the Galway Tidy Towns Committee – said: “We want to make sure that these areas are well cleaned, and it’s not just a matter of the magicians that come in every morning and clean up the city when were all asleep in bed and clean up the mess from the night before. It takes a speciality to go into the water to clean up what they’ve done, and they’ve done an amazing job.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see the May 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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