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CITY TRIBUNE

City Council raises concerns over building and fire regulations

Enda Cunningham

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The North Point building on the Tuam Road

The owners of the majority of the North Point retail and office development on the Tuam Road are planning a major overhaul to the scheme – most of which has been vacant since it was built more than a decade ago.

However, Galway City Council has raised concerns about the building’s non-compliance with fire and building regulations and ordered a full structural survey.

The new proposals involve the change of use of the upper floors of the building to medical clinic use and specialist office space for around 400 workers.

An objection has been lodged by a Dundalk businessman, who argued that there is a notable absence of information about the proposed ‘clinic’ and its use – the objection refers to it as a ‘renal dialysis unit’.

ALC (Glenamaddy) Ltd – which is owned by Galway brothers Michael and Albert Conneally of Glenman Corporation – applied to the City Council for changes to the basement and ground level parking to include electric vehicle charging points, motorbike parking and bike spaces.

They have also sought permission to change the first floor from industrial usage to medical clinic use and to change the permitted wholesale retail usage to office space.

On the second floor, the owners propose to construct specialist office space, with solar panels on roof level overhead.

There are also proposals to give the facades of the building an overhaul and new signage.

“Unfortunately, this development has suffered from periods of high vacancy. In an effort to eliminate this, the owners have been in consultation with a number of potential clients as to how the space could be maximised or manipulated to cater for differing economic needs.

“It is after this consultation that this application has been arrived at, whereby the building owner is seeking to provide the maximum floor space within the existing building with associated uses that the market is seeking at the moment.

“The proposed development also allows for improved landscaping, electric vehicle charging stations, solar panels at roof level and all-round improvements to the existing building.

“The proposal seeks to remedy legacy vacancy issues that the North Point development has suffered from by maximising the development’s potential, improving the general external areas and diversifying the unit uses. This would be positive for the area,” the application reads.

An objection the plan has been lodged by Sean O’Hanlon, with an address in Dundalk, who argued that there is a notable absence of information about the clinic and a land use of this nature is not compatible with the ‘CI’ (Enterprise, Light Industry and Commercial) zoning.

“The applicant refers to a medical clinic but does not state what type of medical clinic is involved. Is this a private hospital such as the Hermitage in Lucan, Co. Dublin, is it an urgent care clinic, a primary care facility, a dialysis clinic, a GP clinic or some other type?

“The type of medical clinic involved is critical from a planning perspective in order to get a handle on the numbers of patients, staff, likely frequency of visitors, opening hours etc,” the objection reads.

It goes on to state that the Tuam Road is “notoriously busy” and the development would be car-dependent, as evidenced by the 270 car spaces provided.

The City Council has sought a structural report on the existing building and pointed out “significant non-compliance” with building and fire regulations.

“It is noted that the existing North Point building raises a number of concerns regarding compliance with building control and fire safety regulations and standards.

“Concern regarding the structural capability of the building is also raised. A structural report which assesses the existing building structural capacity is required. This report is to be written buy a Chartered Engineer. Calculations on foundations (soil bearing pressures/piles), columns, floor plates, roof structure, stability are carried out to confirm that the structure is in accordance with relevant codes and capable of supporting the proposed changes of use. Any deficiencies in the existing structure are to be highlighted with proposed recommendations.

“There [are] serious deficiencies with the means of escape and significant noncompliance with aspects of Part B (fire safety certificate) including non-compliant stairways and Part K and M of the Building Regulations. In addition, the fire service has not required perimeter access to this building for firefighting purposes as the building structure (over basement) has not the carrying capacity for a fire tender(s),” the Council said.

The developers now have until the end of next March to submit the further information, or the application will be deemed to have been withdrawn.

The entire North Point complex was developed in 2008 by Tom Considine and Paddy Sweeney at an estimated cost of around €30 million and was constructed by Glenman Corporation.

In an internet auction last year, seven retail warehouse units, three warehouses, six office units and a total of 430 parking spaces in the complex were sold in one lot for €2.25m.

Meanwhile, the City Council has turned down plans for the amalgamation of two units in the North Point development for bulky retail and convenience store use.

Restpoint Ltd, which is operated by Sinead and Billy Millard, had sought permission for the changes to the vacant Units 3 and 4 of the complex, which the company is listed as the owner of.

The application sought for their use for the sale of bulky retail goods and comparison/convenience retailing.

According to the application, an end user had not been identified, but 60% was to be used for bulky goods, 20% for comparison retail and 20% as convenience store use.

Under Retail Planning Guidelines, ‘comparison’ retail uses include clothing and footwear, furnishings, books, newspapers, pharmacy use and household equipment.

The application said the unit “would be suitable for a larger store format comparison retailer with ancillary convenience retail”, with a gross floor area of 1,740 square metres.

In its decision to refuse permission, the City Council said that proposal would be contrary to the zoning objective for the land use under the current City Development Plan, which sets out to “protect and reinforce the strategic role of the city centre as the prime retail area”.

An objection to the application was lodged by RGDATA, the representative group for independent and family-owned grocery outlets, which claimed that the “proliferation” of planned and permitted convenience stores in suburban locations throughout the city is posing a threat to the vitality and vibrancy of the city centre and existing shopping centres.

It added that there would be a shortfall in parking spaces and there would be a significant intensification of traffic in the area.

Tesco Ireland submitted an observation to the Council that expressed concern the development would not be ‘fully aligned’ with Retail Planning Guidelines which state that the sale of non-bulky goods be limited to 20% of the floor area.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site

Dara Bradley

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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.

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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG student accommodation firm records loss

Enda Cunningham

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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.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan

Dara Bradley

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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.

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