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Concerns over plans for block of historic city centre buildings

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A series of concerns have been raised by the Department of Heritage and City Council over plans for the restoration of a block of derelict buildings on Quay Street and Quay Lane – to become a high-end retail unit for Aran sweaters.

However, the Department has voiced its objection to any plan to restore the building to an appearance as “at some notional date in history”, while the Council has ordered a redesign.

GlenAran Ltd, which is owned by the McCarthy family from Glengarriff in West Cork, bought No 25 Quay Street and numbers 2 to 5 Quay Lane at the end of 2015 for a price which auctioneers said was “significantly in excess” of its €600,000 guide price.

The McCarthys have since submitted plans to the City Council to restore and redevelop the former mill and residential buildings to use as “a high-end retail centre for the sale of GlenAran knitwear and woollen products”.

The extensive works on the buildings – all of which are Protected Structures – include:
■ The repointing and repair of all internal and external walls;
■ The installation of a new staircase, roof and medieval style ceiling;
■ A double-storey extension to the rear of No 4 and a double and single-storey extension to the rear of No 5.

The application states: “Such development will provide a viable commercial use for the existing derelict buildings, which will attract new clientele, enhanced business footfall, and visitor attraction which will in turn improve the economic viability of the lower Quay Street/Quay Lane area of the city centre.

“The structure will be renovated in terms of best conservation practice using traditional skills and materials relevant to the late medieval period and early Victorian era, taking into account any significant findings arising out of the archaeological survey of the site,” the application reads.

The Quay Lane buildings were built as a warehouse in the 17th Century, and altered to residential units in the 1830s. The Department of Heritage has expressed serious concerns about the nature of the redevelopment project.

“While the Department welcomes the proposed restoration of these buildings which have been derelict for a number of years, we are very concerned at the details of this proposed redevelopment.

“The practice of ‘restoring’ a building or structure to an appearance at some notional date in history, as is proposed to No. 25 Quay Street, is entirely contrary to internationally accepted best practice.

“On the other hand, in the case of the buildings at Numbers 2-5 Quay Lane, the original roofs of these buildings were only removed in recent years and the Dept believe there is sufficient documentary and photographic evidence to restore the roofs to the original profile.

“Yet here it is proposed to construct an entirely false ‘medieval style’ roof. In our opinion, the type of works proposed in this application would serve to confuse the evidence of the historic buildings,” the Department’s submission reads.

Meanwhile, the City Council has ordered a redesign of the proposals and further archaeological investigation of the site.

The applicants now have up to six months to submit the further information, or the plans will be deemed withdrawn.

The property was earmarked by a previous owner for a €10m bar, restaurant and upmarket hostel premises.

Connacht Tribune

State to look at plan to protect historic monastic ruins

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Officials from the Office of Public Works have confirmed that they will visit what is widely regarded as the most complete Franciscan monastic ruins in Ireland to see what works are required to save it.

And a local public representative has said that he does not want to be part of a generation that allowed Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary to fall into worse disrepair.

Correspondence sent this week to those who diligently look after the friary has suggested that the OPW’s Head of Historic Properties will come down to establish what emergency works are required.

This follows the recent visit by the Minister for the Office of Public Works Patrick O’Donovan to Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary which dates well back before the 1400s and requires urgent works to be carried out.

Cllr Andrew Reddington (FG) said: “It would be an absolute disgrace if we were the generation that allowed this friary to deteriorate even further.”

It was explained to the Minister while visiting the Abbey that it is in desperate need of emergency works and it was essential that the Minister brought this back to his department.

He was informed that it was around the late 1980s when there was any major works carried out on the abbey by the OPW.

“The abbey needs remedial work urgently as it is falling into disrepair and the main area of concern is the tower.

“There has never been any serious remedial work done on the tower and there has never been scaffolding put up around the outside of it to deal with the exterior of the tower,” Cllr Reddington told The Connacht Tribune.

A local group who met with the Minister explained that there is no electricity at the abbey or any toilet facilities for visiting tourists.

He was informed that the nearest electrical pole is only 200m away, so it wouldn’t be difficult to get electricity to the abbey.

The abbey, he was told, needs electricity which would then mean there would be options in terms of security lighting and closed-circuit television to prevent any vandalism taking place.

Those who look after the Franciscan Friary – including Glen Corbett and former Galway footballer Seamus McHugh – gave a detailed run down of emergency works that need to happen at the abbey.

They said that it was critical that emergency works start as soon as possible to protect the abbey for future generations.

The Minister committed to working with the group on this. The delegation than joined OPW officials and Finna Construction who gave them a tour of the OPW offices in Headford which benefited from a €5 million investment.

This week came the commitment that the OPW would visit the friary to establish the emergency works that need to prioritisation.

(Photo:  Seamus McHugh, Minister Patrick O’Donovan, Glen Corbett and Cllr Andrew Reddington at Ross Errilly Franciscian Friary in Headford)

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Connacht Tribune

Gardaí issue alert over fuel thefts

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Householders, farmers and truckers in the West of Ireland have been advised to put security measures in place to protect their fuel tanks, following a number of thefts over the past month.

While the thefts aren’t an everyday occurrence, Gardaí have advised that with fuel prices likely to remain high over the coming months, basic security precautions should be put in place.

Galway is one of a number of counties where fuel thefts have occurred over recent weeks with home heating oil, trucks and farm diesel in different parts of the country targeted by the thieves.

Sergeant Michael Walsh, Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer, said that while the number of thefts reported in Galway had been quite small, fuel thievery was still an ongoing problem.

He said that some of the precautions recommended included a secure fencing off, of outdoor fuel tanks with good quality perimeter fencing.

“Fuel tanks that are located away from houses or offices are most at risk and in these situations, robust perimeter fencing, and gates need to be properly secured.

“We are also recommending that people and businesses consider installing alarms, anti-siphoning devices, security lighting and CCTV cameras,” said Sergeant Walsh.

He added that fuel thieves often used small drill and syphoning pump to steal the fuel with the whole operation completed in a matter of minutes.

Last month in Limerick, thieves stole an estimated €500 worth of diesel from trucks parked overnight in a business park – large trucks and artics can have a fuel capacity of over 100 gallons.

“As with a lot of robberies, fuel thieves will tend to pick out the opportunist targets. Fuel is a valuable commodity and basic security measures need to be put in place,” said Sergeant Walsh.

Where businesses have multiple users of their fuel tanks, the Gardaí also advise that a fuel management system should be put in place to record the users as well as the dates and times when they access the supply.

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Connacht Tribune

Housing plan turned down over lack of pedestrian access

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The lack of a pedestrian connection to the town centre was listed as one of the reasons why a development of almost 40 houses has been turned down in Ballinasloe.

The proposed development at Poolboy would have been adjacent to an existing housing estate – but planners cited the lack of connectivity to the town centre as a reason why it was refusing the application.

The plans outlined the provision of a mix of three-bedroom detached and semi-detached houses along with 20 townhouses as part of the 38 unit development.

They were submitted by Crownbell Limited, which is based in Clarinbridge, and sought a connection to the existing access road serving the Cuil na Canalacht estate which was granted permission back in 2012.

However, Galway County Council refused planning on the grounds that the proposed development did not provide sufficient pedestrian access to the wider urban area of Ballinasloe.

They said that to grant planning would pose an intensified risk to the safety of pedestrians and other road users and lead to “unsustainable mobility patterns” in the immediate area.

It was stated that the development would be prejudicial to public safety and contravene the sustainable transport policy objectives of the Galway County Development Plan.

Furthermore, planners said that the site was in an area that is zoned open space recreation and amenity in the Ballinasloe Local Area Plan.

They said that this seeks to protect and enhance such areas for exercise facilities, sports grounds and playing fields and to grant planning would set an undesirable precedent.

Given the site’s location to the River Suck, the applicants submitted an environmental impact assessment and screening report. The development would be around 300 yards from the River Suck Callows.

It was proposed that the development would connect to the existing sewer scheme, and it was stated in a submission that it would not overly burden the system.

However, it was a lack of pedestrian access from the site into the town centre which eventually scuppered the proposed development plan.

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