A major programme to provide buildings for culture and arts events is being launched as part of Galway’s bid for European Capital of Culture 2020.
The multi-million euro plan includes a new headquarters for the library service, a conference/concert hall which could seat up to 1,200 and a municipal art gallery, all buildings to be provided on a shared basis between the two local Galway authorities but located in or on the edge of Galway City.
Already, Dublin, Limerick, Louth, Waterford and Wexford have shown interest in applying. Initial bids must be in by October and Patricia Philbin, Senior Executive Officer with Galway City Council, has been appointed as Project Coordinator, starting immediately in that role.
The bid will be made jointly with Galway County Council and already representatives from both Galway councils have attended an information meeting where the time frame was outlined.
A shortlist will be drawn up after the initial bid is made and those cities will have a further nine months in which to develop and refine their applications.
The final plan should contribute to the long term cultural, economic and social development of the city.
It should have a European dimension and have a strong cultural connectivity with Europe. A high quality of cultural and artistic content is required and the city has to prove its capacity to deliver and should have evidence that there is a broad political support and adequate infrastructure in place. The designation is expected to be announced by September 2016.
Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, has announced his vision for that infrastructure and his decision to talk to other stake holders with a view to sharing the costs of some or all of the buildings required to bring the city up to standard of what’s expected from a capital of culture.
“One of the reasons we didn’t succeed last time we applied was lack of infrastructure.
“There is a huge need for a visual arts space in Galway, a municipal space capable of accommodating large exhibitions, as well as a multi-purpose space for both amplified and non-amplified performances and one that could also be used as a conference centre seating up to 1,200.
“Equally, there’s a need for a modern HQ for a city library, this is a shared service with Galway County Council with whom I have already had discussions. These buildings don’t require to be stand-alone ones. There could be a broad cultural campus in the site.
“Fisheries Field is one site that had been discussed a number of years ago with the college (NUIG) but that location had some deficiencies such as lack of parking and access and it fell through.
“All this needs substantial capital funding and we will be talking to other stake holders as well as looking into funding from Europe.”
He added that the Galway City Museum had to be expanded and would be brought outdoors, possibly linking it to Mutton Island through Bádóirí an Chladaigh; the Fisheries Tower would also be used and that a number of premises on Merchants Road owned by the City Council would be turned into studios for local and visiting artists to link with local schools.
Mr McGrath said the Council would need to spend about €500,000 on Comerford House, a premises at the Spanish Arch which is owned by the local authority, to refurbish it to make it part of the city’s cultural heritage properties.
“It is not going to be used for offices or for storage,” he said about the house which used to house the Council’s engineering section many years ago as well as being the city’s museum.
“We need to have very real, tangible projects and we need to find funding from a number of sources. . . and we need to get the Arthouse Cinema completed once and for all,” he added.
Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site
An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.
The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.
It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.
In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.
“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.
A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.
A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.
It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.
Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.
The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.
NUIG student accommodation firm records loss
The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.
However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.
Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.
The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.
Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.
The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.
Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.
Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.
The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).
The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.
It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.
As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.
It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.
In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.
Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan
Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.
Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.
The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.
It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.
Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.
Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.
“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”
The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.
He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.
“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.
“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.
“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.