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Councillor offers money to help acquire land for cemetery

Declan Tierney

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A Galway county councillor is willing to provide a substantial five-figure sum in order to acquire land so that a new cemetery can be provided in Annaghdown.

Cllr James Charity said that he would provide the money subject to four or six similarly interested locals also becoming involved by providing matching funding so that the necessary land can be purchased.

It would result in a not-for-profit company being established – and those involved in the company would be reimbursed from the sale of plots over the coming years.

The controversy over the extension to Annaghdown Cemetery has been rumbling on for several years with Galway County Council coming in for criticism for not acquiring lands necessary – the local authority said that the asking price for the properties viewed was excessive.

But Cllr Charity has said that the two potential sites being considered by Galway County Council have development potential and therefore they are worth more than mere agricultural values.

He said in only wishing to pay agricultural value for land (€10,000 per acre), the Council fail to admit they sell a minimum of 270 plots per acre for a price of € 726 per plot, meaning they profit nearly €190,000 on every acre.

“If the Council are of the view that landowners are being unreasonable, they can acquire the land for the purposes of a cemetery under the Public Health (Ireland) Act 1878. The onus is then on the landowner to prove to an independent arbitrator that the land is worth more.

“To date, the Council have not used this legislation to procure land, despite one third of the county’s 230 cemeteries being full or near full, because they know they are profiting substantially at the expense of local communities and the agricultural value argument would not hold up at arbitration,” Cllr Charity added.

In saying that he has no faith in the Council’s willingness to resolve the situation in Annaghdown, he believes the only solution is to follow the model used in Furbo and acquire land privately.

“To that end, I am willing to pay in a substantial five figure sum for the land acquisition and development costs of a local cemetery in Annaghdown, subject to a minimum of four to six similarly interested locals also becoming involved and providing matching funding.

“A charitable not for profit company would then be established which, after reimbursing those involved of their initial outlay, interest free, would ring-fence all further monies for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the cemetery.

“It would also allow for the procurement of future lands needed in the event of expansion. I am calling for anyone interested in becoming involved in this mechanism to approach me over the coming weeks,” Cllr Charity added.

Last week Galway County Council issued a statement saying that the viewed nine properties and they were all either unsuitable or too expensive.

The local authority says negotiations over two new potential sites have now ended, as the prices sought by the landowners are beyond their financial means.

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
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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CITY TRIBUNE

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
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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