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Council rejects bid to retain unauthorised mosque

Enda Cunningham



Galway City Council has rejected an attempt to retain a controversial mosque which was built without planning permission in Mincloon.

Planners said the building – which has been mired in controversy since 2010 and served with several Enforcement and Warning Notices by the Council – adversely impact the rural area and neighbouring residents, that it is a substandard development and if allowed to remain in place, would cause a serious traffic and pedestrian hazard.

The owners of the house, Dr Saud Bajwa and Molon Bazlul Haque of the Western Islamic Cultural Centre, had sought permission to retain the use of the property as a place of worship by the Muslim community, to construct a weather porch to the front, and to mark off 16 car parking spaces.

They pointed out that the 2017-23 City Development Plan provides for the use of the house as a place of congregation and worship.

However, planners rejected the retention application, ruling that the place of worship would adversely impact upon the high quality rural and residential amenities because of noise from visitors, traffic and parking.

In his report, Executive Planner John Doody wrote: “There have been numerous inspections by the Planning Enforcement Section over a number of years which highlight an overflow of parking onto the adjacent rural roadway.”

The planning decision added that the basement living accommodation is substandard and the lack of glazing and direct sunlight “due to the subterranean nature of the basement” would permit an unacceptable living environment and establish an unacceptable precedent.

Planners also said that the narrow Letteragh Road, combined with limited capacity on other roads and limited parking would “impact adversely upon traffic and pedestrian safety in the area and thereby result in a serious traffic hazard”.

The Council said that the building is in close proximity to the Barna Stream and the applicants had failed to demonstrate the suitability of the site for the treatment and disposal of effluent – therefore it would be likely to create conditions prejudicial to public health.

There were five objections and submissions to the retention application, which mainly concerned the ongoing unauthorised use of the buildings as a place of assembly/worship and an “extremely high” level of cars.

“The suggestion that the use of the building as a place of worship/assembly is ancillary to a dwelling house is incorrect, the primary use is as a place of worship involving, at times, a large number of persons, meeting a number of times throughout the day.

“People currently arrive during the night and day ranging from 5am to 2am, which results in noise of cars day and night, generating disturbance in what is a quiet rural location

“The use of a loudspeaker at some meetings results in excessive noise, there is concern regarding the potential for the use of this loudspeaker at all meetings.

“The adjacent site is owned by the applicant and also used for parking cars,” the objections read.

The planning report notes that in 2010, refusal was recommended for the retention of a semi-basement and other changes to the house, but this was not accepted by the Director of Services for Planning, who issued a direction to issue a grant of planning.

In 2010, the Council’s Enforcement Section visited the site and found what was being built was vastly different from the single-storey house granted permission a year previously – this included an unauthorised basement living area, and a garage area had no garage door and was being partitioned into a number of rooms.

The Enforcement Officer also noted that the building had a “generous supply of electrical cabling”.

A warning letter and Enforcement Notice followed, and planning permission to regularise some of the changes to the development was subsequently sought and approved.

However, in 2013, there were further complaints to the Enforcement Section and an inspection found the rear of the property had been tarmacadamed for a carpark, a high timber fence had been built and the basement area contained bedrooms, a living area and kitchen, rather than the ‘study’ shown on drawings.

A further warning letter was served by the Council.

During discussions on the Draft City Development Plan (now passed) last December, there were 17 submissions made on proposals to vary the Development Plan to allow for a mosque on the site. Following a heated row in the chamber, councillors voted 11-7 to make the change – against the advice of Council officials.

The alteration to the Development Plan paved the way for the current planning application to be considered by city planners.

The decision is expected to be appealed to An Bord Pleanála.


Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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