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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief refutes claims over social housing costs

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The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has refuted claims that councillors were “kept in the dark” over the costs of building social houses in Knocknacarra.

The Galway City Tribune reported a fortnight ago that the 14 houses on the Upper Ballymoneen Road would cost an average of €330,000 – around twice the national average. They are part of a proposal for a total of 69 homes on the site.

At a subsequent local authority meeting, Cllr Declan McDonnell said that at no time did the former Director of Services for Housing, Tom Connell, inform councillors of the construction costs.

He said he had to find out by reading this newspaper, and he now understood the reluctance of the Department to proceed with the houses.

“I’m very disappointed that I had to learn and read about it in the Tribune. We’ve been talking about this for twelve months, we’re being left in the dark. We’re not being told the facts.

“At no time were we told the cost was the problem. It beggars belief that we would waste that kind of money and not find a new site. We weren’t told the truth. I hope into the future it will be facts rather than fiction,” said Cllr McDonnell.

Cllr Donal Lyons said the first he heard of the costs was on Galway Bay fm last week, and he described them as “rather exorbitant”.

Mike Cubbard said he was hearing the figures for the first time at the meeting and they sounded “absolutely daft”.

Cllr Padraig Conneely said he was in the same position, and it was unacceptable that councillors were not given the full information.

Mr Connell said the Council had been engaging with the Department for the past three years on the Ballymoneen site, and there was a legacy there of consultative costs, preparation of plans etc.

He explained that the Department allowed the Council to go forward with 14 of the 69 houses, they went to tender and selected a preferred contractor. He said every stage of the process was overseen by the Dept and the Council is now seeking approval to move forward.

He totally rejected any suggestion that the Council executive was not up front with information.

Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said: “I refute completely that we’ve been telling lies”, adding that that details would be given to the councillors when the tender process had been completed, as is protocol.

He said the 14 houses are on one side of a new access road, and would all have to be services, so a lot of the costs for development of the site were front-loaded.

“It’s a public tender, we select the most economically-advantageous tender, the houses are specced to meet modern building requirements. Yes, the Dept is right to be concerned, but we went to the market based on a specification, and that is the price the market came forward with.

“We’ve got a chronic shortage of social housing and also a shortage of overall housing which is contributing to the housing crisis,” said Mr McGrath.

He said the city has a shortage of in excess of 3,500 units of accommodation, and required 300 to 350 new units per annum just to keep pace with organic growth in population.

Over the next 18 to 21 months, about 250 units will be provided, he said.

Mr Connell said that as well as the other 55 units on the Ballymoneen site, there were 77 units to be built beside the new Coláiste na Coiribe school as part of a Public-Private Partnership.

“That’s a fairly slow-burner and will take a number of years to deliver and will be bundled with other sites around the country,” he said.

He said there is also potential for 42 units at Baile an Choiste off the Headford Road, but the access road would have to be improved first at a cost of €2m (which would also open up private development land). The Council would be seeking €1.5m in funding and would have to come up with €500,000 from its own budget.

The Council also plans to deliver in excess of 30 social housing units in Doughiska.

A report on the cost of the 14 Ballymoneen properties is to be presented to the Department tomorrow (Wednesday).

CITY TRIBUNE

Whopping repayments for City Hall’s move

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Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath: Responding to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the Council suggested that senior management at City Hall did not meet with the owner of Crown Square in Mervue in the year before the loan approval for the purchase of the new offices there. If they did meet, no minutes exist.

The total cost to repay the loan required to execute Galway City Council’s planned purchase of new offices to accommodate a move from City Hall will be €63.1 million, the Galway City Tribune has learned.

It means the City Council will have to find €2m every year for 30 years in its own revenue budget to repay the mortgage, which could impact on the level of service it delivers to the public or may require an increase in charges or commercial rates.

Separately, a Council reply to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request suggests senior management at City Hall did not meet with the owner of Crown Square in Mervue in the year prior to the loan approval for the purchase of the new offices – and if they did meet, no minutes exist.

In its loan sanction application form, submitted to the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the City Council applied for permission to borrow €45.4 million.

This is to cover the bulk of the cost of the €56.5m total capital outlay associated with moving from City Hall and relocating all Galway City Council employees from College Road to the new Crown Square offices in Mervue.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Hunt on for new courthouse to tackle explosion in cases

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Galway Courthouse: Limited facilities there make it difficult to clear lengthy Circuit Court lists.

The Courts Service is scouring the city for rental property to accommodate Galway Courthouse.

Commercial real estate advisors, Avison Young have been hired to source suitable property in the city centre.

The company published an advert in Galway City Tribune last week outlining the Courts Service’s property requirement of suitable commercial or office space of 1,800-2,000 metres squared.

Avison Young said the space should be in the city centre and be available to lease.

On-site parking is required, and it needs to be available for “immediate occupation”.

The move comes after the Galway City Tribune revealed earlier this month that victims of serious crime are waiting up to three years for justice because Galway’s limited court facilities make it difficult to clear lengthy Circuit Court lists.

Due to an explosion in the number of cases sent for trial at Galway Circuit Criminal Court, the wait for a trial date is between 24 and 36 months.

The Courts Service confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was looking for a new courthouse and office space facilities.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

Stars align as Teapots finally stage Into the Dark Woods

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Blue Teapot director Petal Pilley with cast members Michael Hayes and Valerie Egan ahead of the show.

Into the Dark Woods

Blue Teapot at the Black Box

REVIEW BY JUDY MURPHY

After several false dawns, Blue Teapot Theatre Company finally got to stage its long-awaited drama, Into the Dark Woods, in the city’s Black Box Theatre last week. A Galway 2020 commission, and written by company member Charlene Kelly, it was originally meant to be presented more than two years ago.

Blue Teapot is made up of actors with intellectual disabilities and Charlene is one of its best-known performers, but this marked her first foray into writing, supported by dramaturg Eileen Gibbons. The production, directed by the company’s Artistic Director Petal Pilley, has done her proud.

It’s a short, moving, sometimes humorous piece about two young people with intellectual disabilities from very different backgrounds, who get lost in the woods where they are confronted by various demons and monsters.

Jennifer Cox plays Sharon whose grandmother (Mary Monaghan-McHugh) has taught her to be independent and outward looking, while Kieran Coppinger is a prince who has been cocooned in a nearby castle by his father (Midie Corcoran), a king who feels his son isn’t capable of inheriting the throne.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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