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CITY TRIBUNE

Commercial rates hike in Galway City ‘still on the table’

Dara Bradley

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A proposal from management at City Hall to increase commercial rates in the budget for 2020 remains on the table, despite outright opposition from local businesses.

Sources in Galway City Council have indicated that they will present a draft budget at a meeting in November, which will include a proposal to increase commercial rates.

Last month, Interim Head of Finance at Galway City Council, Nepta Moggan, presented a draft budget to elected members that included a 1.75% hike in commercial rates.

This, she said, would bring in an additional €780,000 over a year, and would cost each ratepayer some €1.53 on average, per week.

Sources at the Council indicated this week that that proposed increase in rates will be included in the draft budget Ms Moggan, and Chief Executive Brendan McGrath, bring forward to the budget meeting in November.

It will be up to the 18 city councillors to put forward an alternative budget – which must be balanced – if they don’t agree with the draft presented to them.

In order to keep rates static – which is what two of the city’s business organisations have called for – councillors will have to find savings or other revenue streams in the budget that amount to €780,000.

“The only thing off the table is an increase in Local Property Tax (LPT), because councillors voted not to increase that. Everything else is on the table, and the draft budget outlined last month during the debate on LPT, which includes an increase in commercial rates, is very much a proposal that the City Council is looking to put forward and believes will be in the best interests of the city,” a source at Galway City Council said.

Galway Chamber and Galway City Business Association (GCBA) both oppose a hike in commercial rates.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said it was “unlikely” that commercial rates will increase but ultimately that was a decision for councillors.

“The proposal from the Council to increase commercial rates wasn’t fantasy. That’s what they want to do. It’s in their draft budget. I think it’s unlikely to happen, but it depends on what the Greens do and what the [former] PDs (now Independents) do,” said Cllr Crowe.

The GCBA, which represents between 100 and 150 members in the city centre – from Mainguard Street to Prospect Hill and Forster Street – is opposed to any hike in commercial rates.

GCBA chairman Cormac McGuckian said: “It’s very uncertain times at the moment, and it’s predominantly due to Brexit. An increase in rates would obviously mean additional costs for our members, in an already tough environment, for retail in particular. It’s challenging with an ever-increasing cost base between rates, rents, wages, insurance, they’re all going in the wrong direction and turnover and figures are not matching it.”

GCBA echoes the sentiments of Galway Chamber, which is resisting an increase in rates.

David Hickey, President of Galway Chamber – which represents 400 businesses – said: “Galway Chamber had supported the 3% increase in commercial rates supporting Galway 2020 which is due to expire next year. The Chamber supports the proposed continuance of this 3%, but that the monies be ringfenced to stimulate economic development and enterprise activities. An additional increase of 1.75% cannot be sustained by business and will translate to job losses and increased pressure on already stretched businesses”.

The voting down by elected members last month of a proposal by City Council management to increase LPT by 7.5%, means the draft budget will be short by €620,000 before commercial rates are even taken into account.

CITY TRIBUNE

“It will be akin to the notorious Rahoon flats”

Enda Cunningham

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The Rahoon flats, which were built in 1972 and demolished in 1998, widely regarded as a failed social housing project.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – More than 700 local residents have signed a petition against plans for the construction of 330 apartments in Knocknacarra – which have been likened to “the notorious Rahoon flats”.

Child safeguarding concerns have also been raised by the principal of Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh – who pointed out that the apartments will look directly into 19 classrooms.

A total of 27 objections were lodged against Glenveagh Living’s plans to build 332 apartments in six blocks – ranging from four storeys to seven storeys in height.

Locals have demanded An Bord Pleanála hold an oral hearing into the plans – that planning authority is due to make a decision by March 20, although it can decide to hold such a hearing first.

A computer-generated image of the Glenveagh plans for the site opposite Gort na Bró and beside Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh.

One of the objections – which accuses the developer of designing “tenement style” homes in a “blatant attempt to profiteer from the housing crisis” – was signed by more than 700 local residents.

Another objector said the development was “akin to the notorious Rahoon flats, with people being packed on top of each other”.

Locals have raised concerns about the huge number of apartments planned; overshadowing of homes; inadequate open space, playing pitches and community infrastructure; parking and traffic problems; low quality of design and road safety.

Glenveagh Living did not respond to a request from the Galway City Tribune for comment.
This is a preview only. To read extensive coverage of the Glenveagh plans and objections, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Arts fraternity rallies as Theo faces deportation

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Less than a year after being invited by the Arts Council to perform at a conference about diversity in the arts, a musician, DJ and rapper – who is about to embark on a project for Galway 2020 – is facing deportation.

Theophilus Ndlovu left Zimbabwe after what he claims was a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the people who were supposed to mind him.

His mother left when he was just six years old and he never met his father. He was placed in the care of an unofficial foster family but it was never a happy arrangement.

“These people I stayed with were abusing me. They were never my family. I was running away from persecution and abuse and the way I was treated by these people. I had to fend for myself since I was ten years old,” he recalls.

When Theo was 20, he saved up enough money from mowing lawns and selling chickens to escape, arriving in Ireland where he sought asylum. Authorities placed him in a Direct Provision Centre in Finglas for a fortnight before he was transferred to the Great Western Direct Provision Centre off Eyre Square, where he has remained for nearly four years.

Almost immediately, Theo felt at home.

“This is my family. Galway is where I found my voice. It has become my home. It is just where I’m meant to be.”

Theo has immersed himself in the arts community and has become a leading hip-hop artist, known as Touché, performing regularly at venues such as the Róisín Dubh and the Black Gate. He was instrumental in getting fellow asylum seekers and refugees involved in music collaborations.

He is a founding member of the multicultural music project ‘Atmos Collective’ and has facilitated numerous music workshops in Galway, “teaching, motivating and inspiring hundreds of young people along the way”, according to co-founder Alice McDowell, an Australian filmmaker and fiddler.

The collective was recently granted funding by the Galway European Capital of Culture 2020 committee to host community music workshops in the city and county over the next year as part of their ‘Small Towns Big Ideas’ scheme.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

The petition is available online HERE

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CITY TRIBUNE

Regeneration funding sought for community centre

Stephen Corrigan

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A computer-generated image of the proposed communit centre in Newcastle

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – With a decision imminent on planning permission to build a new community centre in Newcastle, city councillors will be asked next Monday to support an application for major government funding to proceed with the project.

A motion by Councillor Eddie Hoare (FG) will seek the approval of the City Council to make an application for funding under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) – an overall fund of €2bn available for major infrastructural projects in cities.

Chairman of the Newcastle Combined Community Association (NCCA) Seamus Davey said that they expected a decision on their planning application by the end of January, and were hopeful of getting the support of councillors for this funding application.

“While planning permission hasn’t been granted yet – it has dragged on a bit because of a request for further information – we expect to have it approved soon.

“This project will be shovel ready and as soon as we get planning permission, we’ll have the engineering documents drawn up. As soon as we have funding, we’ll be putting it out to tender,” said Mr Davey.

The Council is set to reach a decision on the application on February 6.

The proposal for funding under the URDF has to come from the Council so it is crucial the project got the full backing of Council members, Mr Davey added.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.

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