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CITY TRIBUNE

Council to pay €400,000 in interest on fallow land

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Interest payments on loans for land bought by Galway City Council at the height of the construction boom, but which was never developed, will amount to more than €400,000 next year.

Chief Executive of the City Council, Brendan McGrath, confirmed that €400,000 was the ‘interest-only’ payment to the banks for parcels of land that were bought for social housing but were never developed.

The lands, in Knocknacarra and Rahoon, were not transferred to the Land Aggregation Scheme, which was effectively a NAMA for local authorities set up by Government during the economic crash.

Mr McGrath confirmed to Cllr Collette Connolly (Ind) that the total amount of monies owing for the land purchases was €32 million; and it was costing €400,000 annually to service the debt.

Cllr Connolly said it was “madness” that the Council pays so much to private banks to service loans on land that was never used as it was intended – to build social housing.

She said the City Council was “allergic to building social housing”, even though that was the only valid solution to tackling the housing shortage.

Cllr Connolly said that the €400,000 would only be a drop in the ocean in terms of building new houses but it could have been put to better use, such as for housing adaptation grants for the elderly.

Some of the land that was never used is within the footprint of the proposed Galway City Ring Road (bypass).

In response to Cllr Frank Fahy (FG), Mr McGrath confirmed that the Council would be recouping some money for that land when Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) are issued this week. He confirmed the amount of money received for the CPOs would be based on the market value of the land now, and not based on the amount paid for the land at the height of the boom over a decade ago.

CITY TRIBUNE

New fire station for Athenry gets stamp of approval

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Councillors have given their stamp of approval to a new fire station for Athenry – voting unanimously to grant planning for the development at Ballygarraun South.

The site of just under two acres, located between the new Presentation College and the railway line, will house a station as well as a training tower and parking.

Chief Fire Officer Paul Duffy told a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week that they hoped to have a contractor appointed by the end of October, with works to get underway soon afterwards.

“We have worked very hard to get this project to a tangible position and it’s great that the ‘Part 8’ planning application [one which requires a vote by councillors] has been adopted today,” said Mr Duffy.

“This will hopefully get underway this year and we can move on to other stations [in the county], with another one planned for next year and another the year after,” he added.

The plans include the construction of a 361 square metre fire station with finishing materials common to the area which ‘will link the development on the site to the context overall’.

Permission has been granted from the IDA, which owns the site, for Galway County Council to proceed with the development on their lands.

The meeting heard that consideration had been given to the sightlines for exiting fire trucks and that amendments had been made to the original plans to ensure they were adequate.

Local area councillor Gabe Cronnelly (Ind) said the progression of a new fire station for the town was hugely welcome, adding that it had been years in the making.

“We have to give huge credit to Paul Duffy who pursued this. Athenry is one of the busiest stations in the county. We secured an extension for the existing station six years ago and when the Department was granting that, they could see that, from the amount of calls it was getting, that a new station was justified,” said Cllr Cronnelly.

Cllr Shelly Herterich Quinn (FF) said she was ‘delighted’ that the area’s representatives had given the proposal their unanimous backing.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Plan for ‘world-class’ campus with potential for 10,000 jobs at Galway Airport

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From this week’s Galway CIty Tribune – A proposal to transform the former Galway Airport into a ‘world-class’ business and technology campus has been drawn up by Galway County Council – with the potential to create up to 10,000 jobs.

The plan, which was compiled as part of the Draft County Development Plan, proposes a multi-million-euro investment in the 115-acre site owned jointly by the County and City Councils.

According to the vision document, the airport site at Carnmore could become a key economic driver that would “attract and secure long-term investment in Galway and the western region, and underpin the development of the Galway Metropolitan Area”.

Among the sectors identified as potential occupants are renewable energy, biodiversity, food science and logistics.

Some of the structures included for are a ‘landmark building’; commercial units; park amenity and recreation space; a renewable energy park; and a multi-purpose leisure facility.

A contemporary development with the potential to accommodate emerging industries is promised, with projected employment numbers ranging between 3,500 to 10,000 over time.

However, county councillors raised concerns at a meeting this week that the proposal they had seen in the Development Plan had been ‘sitting on a shelf’ since last March – and they still hadn’t seen what was dubbed ‘the masterplan’ for the airport site.

Cllr Liam Carroll (FG) told the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District meeting that the recent news that Oranmore was among the locations being looked at by multinational tech giant, Intel, put fresh focus on the future of the airport.

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

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CITY TRIBUNE

Work expected to start on Galway City cycleways next summer

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The first six projects in the city’s major new cycle network are expected to begin construction by next June.

In an update on developments that are in train to improve the lot of cyclists, councillors at this week’s local authority meeting were told that the Martin Roundabout (near the Galway Clinic) would next be changed to a junction and the BusConnects, involving priority bus lanes from Moneenageisha to University Hospital Galway, were advancing.

The National Transport Authority (NTA) has approved a raised cycle lane north of Railway Bridge on Doughiska Road South and for a shared street south of the bridge.

Eglinton Canal will turn into a shared cycle and pedestrian path. Four weeks of public consultation on both of these is set to begin in October, with the projects set to go to detailed design and tender following final NTA approval.

Ballybane, Castlepark and Bóthar Stiofáin Roads will also go to public consultation for “raised adjacent cycle schemes” a month after that.

The six projects are expected to begin construction by the end of June or early July next year.

Millars Lane is currently in preliminary design stage after clearing works were carried out last November.

Options are being examined and parking survey prepared for Threadneedle, Bishop O’Donnell, Dr Mannix, Devon Park, Salthill Road Upper and Lower Roads with input and designs from the Parkmore Strategic Framework awaited for the Monivea and Doughiska North Roads.

Active Travel Schemes had been approved in principle by the NTA for Ballyloughane and Clybaun South Roads, involving pedestrian crossings, traffic calming, signalisation of junctions and the integration of safe school routes.

Cllr John Connolly (FF) noted that the first quarter of 2021 was when some of these projects were to go to construction, according to a previous timetable.

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

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