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CITY TRIBUNE

City Council raises concerns over building and fire regulations

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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

Council officials branded ‘ignorant’ after reneging on circus agreement

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A circus branded City Hall in Galway ‘ignorant and arrogant’ after a spat over access to public space.

Circus Gerbola criticised Galway City Council for limiting the days its big top was permitted in Claude Toft carpark in Salthill and for reneging on an agreement.

The touring troupe said that last January, it provisionally booked the carpark from August 4-21. In early July, the Council emailed the circus and said it would be limited to seven days only.

Event Producer Jane Murray said she then secured a verbal compromise to rent the carpark for 10 days, including two weekends. But then the Council contacted the circus again and insisted that the site could be used for seven days only.

“I wouldn’t call them clowns because I think it would be an insult to clowns and generations of clowning. They were just extremely ignorant and arrogant. They were so unempathetic,” fumed Ms Murray.

They then scrambled to find alternative accommodation, in Kinvara, for performances today, Saturday and Sunday.

The third planned week has been moved to Conamara. From next Monday, the big top moves to Fíbín theatre company grounds in An Tulach, Cois Fharraige, for a series of events.

A Council statement said the matter was discussed at length internally.

“The carpark in question is relied upon by locals and tourists alike for parking, particularly during the busy tourist season. The best compromise in this situation was to permit the circus to take over full use of the car park for seven days. We do envisage complaints/representations from locals at being prevented from using this car park for a full week,” it said.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see the August 12 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Residents call on Galway City Council to tackle burning of rubbish

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Local residents have called on the authorities to tackle the problem of an ongoing illegal dump in the Castlegar area with the rubbish being burnt off on a regular basis.

A particularly intense fire was set off in the Bruckey area on Tuesday afternoon last with black smoke billowing from the blaze – forcing local people to close their windows and doors.

According to one local resident, even the Fire Brigade couldn’t access the blaze which eventually burnt itself out over the following days.

“This has been going on for the past four years and we have made several overtures to the City Council on the issue as well as contacting the Gardaí, but nothing is being done about this.”

He said that the land being used as dump and fire site was rented and added that those burning waste were ‘a complete law onto themselves who did whatever they liked’.

(Photo: the fire burning on Tuesday)

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see the August 12 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Councillors ignore Transport Authority recommendation on estate access

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A submission by the National Transport Authority (NTA) – seeking to restrict new access points along the Western Distributor Road to ‘cyclists and pedestrians’ only – has been defeated at a City Council meeting.

Councillors voted 12-4 to reject the NTA submission presented in the draft Galway City Development Plan (2023-29) which sought to prevent new access points being provided for vehicular traffic.

The NTA in their submission said that their proposal was aimed at ‘protecting investment in public transport’ and in ‘facilitating sustainable travel’.

In his response to the submission, City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, said that the Council did not want any further restrictions to be put in place.

Councillors Niall Murphy (Green Party) and Colette Connolly (Ind) had proposed the acceptance of the NTA submission in order to improve access for cyclists and pedestrians.

Senior Planner with the Council, Caroline Phelan, said that there was a substantial bank of land in this area (off the Western Distributor Road) and the objective was to be able to access zoned land.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) said that if land in such areas was prevented from being developed by a lack of access, it would have major implications for industry, jobs, housing and schools. “We have to allow access,” he said.

(Photo: The ‘Kingston Cross’ lands on the Western Distributor Road which were earmarked for a commercial and residential development anchored by Tesco and Decathlon: An Bord Pleanála previously ruled access points would be a traffic hazard, particularly when it came to cycling infrastructure and a bus corridor on the road).

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of this story, see the August 12 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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