Galway City’s Heritage Officer and environmental group An Taisce have expressed concerns about a proposed three-storey extension to Our Lady’s College.
Last December, Ceist Ltd (the Catholic Education and Irish Schools Trust) sought permission for the new extension, which will include space for three classrooms, a new science lab, business studies room, technology rooms, preparation rooms and toilets at the school on Presentation Road.
The new building is proposed for the northern end of the 1960s structure on the school grounds and will involve the removal of pre-fab classroom to adjacent to the canal; removal of a storage and toilet enclosure under the 1960s building and removal of a pre-fab classroom adjacent to the primary school building.
However, planners subsequently sought justification from school authorities on why such a large extension was required, and how they intended to reduce car usage among parents and staff.
In its response, Ceist said Our Lady’s College – the amalgamation of the Presentation and Mercy secondary schools – would have a long-term enrolment is estimated at 420 students.
An evaluation carried out in 2014 found existing accommodation of 4,386 square metres, with a requirement for an additional 2,058 sq m to cater for a school population of 500 pupils.
The existing planning application is for 1,127 sq m, and there is a new PE hall planned in a second phase.
“Our Lady College currently operate daily on both school sites and will continue to do so until the proposed building extension is completed. This is a very unsatisfactory position from the school’s standpoint and continues to create significant issues with timetabling, staffing and integration.”
In a Mobility Management Plan, school authorities said that only staff vehicles and vehciles carrying a student with restricted mobility will be permitted to enter the site, and drop-off on Presentation Road in the vicinity of the site will be “discouraged”.
The school has contacted the Council to become part of the Park ‘n’ Stride initiative (allowing parents with special stickers free parking for an hour in the morning and evening at Mill Street carpark) and will be encouraging Drop ‘n’ Hop at Mill Street carpark, 220 metres away.
Following the clarification, An Taisce said it was satisfied when it saw the initial plans that the impacts on the Eglinton Canal were acceptable.
However, the environmental group was “especially concerned” about the indication of Phase 2 – a PE hall and outdoor playing courts – as it would have a negative impact on the canal’s wildlife corridor.
Concerns were also raised about traffic volumes and safety.
“Despite the obvious concerns about the level of parent car drop-offs and the proposals to introduce Park and Stride mitigation. An Taisce must express some concern about the unreality of reducing parent drop-offs, while at the same time increasing pupil numbers.
“The proposed location of the entrance gate is quite close to a ‘blind’ corner and with a footpath on only one side of the road, this even at the present time is a dangerous corner, all the more so when funerals and weddings are on at nearby St Joseph’s.”
An Taisce added that suggestions of a drop-off point and Mill Street carpark are “fanciful and expectations unrealisable”.
Meanwhile, the City Council’s Heritage Officer, Jim Higgins, said he was opposed to the removal of any of the stone wall to the front or side of the school, and also opposed to the demolition of the 1960s shelter “which is an interesting architectural feature with a rarity of value and worthy of retention”.
A decision on the application is expected later this month.
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Swimmer rescued in Salthill by Galway Lifeboat crew
Galway RNLI Lifeboat rescued a swimmer who got into difficulty near Blackrock this afternoon in poor weather conditions.
The alarm was raised at 12.25pm by a pedestrian who saw the woman struggling in the water between Blackrock and Ladies Beach. The Irish Coast Guard sought the assistance of the RNLI Lifeboat who launched from Galway Docks a short time later.
The woman who was a couple of hundred metres from the shore opposite the Galway Bay Hotel. They took the woman on board and brought her back to the Lifeboat Station where an ambulance was waiting. Paramedics assessed the woman’s condition and she was allowed home a short time later.
Shane Folan, Deputy Launch Authority with Galway Lifeboat said: “We would advise anyone thinking of going swimming to let someone else know. Today, for example, there were very challenging weather conditions with high winds and breaking surf.”
The lifeboat volunteer crew on the call-out were: David Badger (Helmsman), Martin Oliver, Ross Forde and James Rhattigan.
Gardaí warn GMIT students about weekend travel as Covid numbers rise
Students at GMIT have been warned by Gardaí that there will be checks at the bus and train stations to ensure compliance with the 5km travel rule – as the HSE warned today of increasing numbers testing positive for Covid-19 in the Galway City student outbreaks.
The college emailed all students to inform them that management had a meeting with Gardaí in relation to students planning on travelling home at weekends.
While students are permitted to travel to and from GMIT for educational purposes when there are onsite classes, there are no onsite classes scheduled at the moment and therefore there should not be any travel for educational purposes.
“The Gardaí have notified us that there will be checks at the bus and train stations to implement the 5km travel rule, as well as checkpoints on the roads, and that fines will be given for any non-compliance with this rule,” the email reads.
Meanwhile students at the college were also told that following the Covid outbreak last week among GMIT students, numbers are still increasing.
“The HSE informs us that numbers testing Covid positive continue to rise,” the email reads.
Help local charities by sharing your pandemic feelings
The public has been invited to write down and share with others their experience of living in Galway through the global Coronavirus pandemic.
‘Three Questions’, an initiative spearheaded by Galway Volunteer Centre, wants people of all ages and backgrounds to log their thoughts and feelings on the past year living with the reality of Covid-19.
The project aims are twofold: to develop a written archive of the memories of Galway people from the past 12 months but also the act of writing down those memories can act as a sort of therapeutic exercise for the public.
People are being asked to divulge their memories by answering three questions: what was your biggest challenge in the past year; what was the biggest lesson you have learned in the past year; and can you think of someone or something you are grateful for over the past 12 months and why?
The collection of people’s written memories will form an archive that will benefit all, but the individual act of writing down memories is also beneficial to the person who takes part, explained Donncha Foley, Manager of Galway Volunteer Centre.
“There’s a lot of science behind this in that there’s a lot of evidence to show that reflecting on the past and learning from it is of great benefit from a mental health perspective and personal development and also the idea of showing gratitude to somebody else has huge mental health benefits as well,” he said.
Mr Foley said what is unique about Covid-19 is that everybody has been impacted by it, and everyone has a memory of it.
“Some changes have been very dramatic for some people, for others maybe not so much but everybody has been affected in some way. There are very few opportunities to meet up and talk about the challenges of the last year, and from a mental health perspective we feel it would be useful for people to use this initiative to think about what’s happened over the last 12 months,” he said.
The project is part of the Keep Well campaign launched by Government and funded through Healthy Ireland and Pobal.
People who respond to the initiative are asked to nominate a local charity or community group and there are two prizes of €500 up for grabs for those organisations if your memories are chosen as the winner.
Submissions will be reviewed by Galway Volunteer Centre and a selection will be published – with permission of the participants – on social media and in the Galway City Tribune.
“We’re hoping that we gather enough so that people can look at other people’s experiences and get their perspectives on the year and see that many people have had the same challenges.
“The phrase that has been used often is that ‘we’re all in this together’ and this is an opportunity to reflect together while still maintaining social distancing,” Mr Foley said.
Applications are available in this week’s Galway City Tribune, and can be returned to Volunteer Galway, 27 William Street West, Galway. To submit your answers online, visit the centre’s website.
The deadline for submissions is March 9, and there is no word count limit – contributions can be long or short. Entrants must include contact details.
(Photo: Donncha Foley of Galway Volunteer Centre)