City councillors have paved the way for a new hotel or residential development on the site of the derelict Spinnaker House Hotel in Knocknacarra.
A submission by owner Clearwater Ventures Ltd on the Draft City Development Plan 2017-23 requesting a zoning change of the site to ‘R’ (residential) was approved by fifteen councillors present at a meeting of the local authority.
Clearwater is owned by city businessman Francis O’Flaherty, London-based Paul Brennan and a company called Bungalow Investments based in New Jersey.
Mr O’Flaherty is Chief Operating Officer with Declan Ganley’s Rivada Networks, while Bungalow Investments is operated by Michael Higgins from Mayo, who is a real estate financier in the US with the CIBC World Markets investment bank.
The company sought to have the 2.5 acres of land (split into two sites) rezoned from CI (Commercial/Industrial) and RA (recreational Amenity) to R.
The hotel itself and the adjoining florists and hairdressers have CI zoning, while the carpark to the rear is RA.
They asked that if the carpark element could not be rezoned, if the Development Plan could allow it to be considered as ‘open space’ when a planning application is put together.
As well as residential development, ‘R’ zoning can allow for local shops and offices, community buildings, hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs.
City Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath recommended that the hotel and retail units be rezoned, and that the carpark area can contribute to open space provision “only where it is part of an overall high-quality urban design and is restored to natural landscaping and biodiversity”. It cannot be used for carparking purposes in such an instance.
Cllr Declan McDonnell proposed to accept the Chief Executive’s recommendations, which was seconded by Niall McNelis. Fifteen councillors voted in favour, and three were absent.
It’s believed the Spinnaker site was purchased for around €600,000 in 2014.
In 2008, then owner Ronan Lawless was granted permission for a €30 million upmarket boutique hotel with 26 bedrooms and bar and 16 apartments over three and four storeys (plus basement). That planning permission will expire in December 2018.
Earlier plans for a nine-storey pub, leisure centre and 19 apartments were rejected by An Bord Pleanala.
Voice of ‘Big O’ reflects on four decades
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The daytime voice of Big O Taxis is celebrating four decades in the role – and she has no plans to hang up her headset any time soon.
Roisin Freeney decided to seek a job after staying at home to mind her three children for over a decade. It was 1981 when she saw an advert in the Connacht Sentinel for a dispatch operator.
The native of Derry recalls that the queue for the job wound its way past Monroe’s Tavern from the taxi office on Dominick Street.
“There was a great shortage of work back then. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the line of people. My then husband who was giving me a lift in never thought I’d get the job, he was driving on past and I said, let me off.
“I got it because I worked as a telephonist in the telephone exchange in Derry. But I was terrified starting off because I hadn’t been in the work system for so long.”
Back then Big O Taxis had only 25 drivers and just a single line for the public to book a cab.
“We had an old two-way radio, you had to speak to the driver and everybody could listen in. It was easy to leave the button pressed when it shouldn’t be pressed. People heard things they shouldn’t have – that’s for sure,” laughs Roisin.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of Róisín’s story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Baby boom puts strain on Galway City secondary schools
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A baby boom in the late 2000s has left parents of sixth class pupils in Galway City scrambling to find a secondary school place for their children next September – with over 100 children currently facing the prospect of rejection from city schools.
The Department of Education is now rushing to address the issue and confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it was fully aware of increasing pressure and demand on city schools
Local councillor Martina O’Connor said there were 100 more children more than there were secondary school places for next year, and warned that this would put severe pressure on schools to increase their intake numbers.
“This will put a lot of pressure on schools because they will have been working out the number of teachers and what resources they would need in October or November last year and they could be facing a situation where they will be asked to take an additional eight or 10 students.
“There would normally be a small excess – maybe two or three – but this year, it’s over 100. There is a bigger number of children in sixth class this year and there will be the same issue for the next few years,” said the Green Party councillor.
A Department spokesperson said while there were capacity issues, factors other than numbers could be at play, adding that there were approximately 1,245 children in the city due to move onto secondary school in September.
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.
GMIT warns partying students they are delaying return to campus
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Partying students have been told their actions have impacted GMIT’s plans to re-start practical classes on campus – and Gardaí are monitoring the city’s bus and train stations to catch those breaking the 5km travel restriction by returning home for the weekend.
College authorities said the current “extremely serious outbreak” of Covid-19 among students in Galway City was caused by a small minority who are “moving and mixing between different households”.
Following a meeting with Gardaí last week, GMIT contacted all students to clarify that because there are no ‘onsite’ classes, there should be no need to travel for educational purposes.
“The Gardaí have notified us that there will be checks at the bus and train stations to implement the 5km travel rule, as well as checkpoints on the roads, and that fines will be given for any non-compliance with this rule,” students were told.
In a separate communication issued this week, the college’s Covid Officer appealed to students to abide by the rules.
“This outbreak has had an impact on our plans with regard to return to onsite practical work, with consequences for all students.
“We are appealing to all students to comply with all Covid restrictions and in doing so, to help ensure that those students who have to return to onsite practical work can do so,” the email read.
Many students from outside the city have opted to stay in their accommodation for access to better broadband.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more coverage of Covid figures and vaccinations, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.