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Council’s concern over proposed Merlin Park nursing home



The site of the proposed new Community Nursing Unit in Merlin Park.

Plans to construct a new 60-bed Community Nursing Unit on the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital – with dining rooms, family overnight room, treatment rooms and internal courtyard – have hit a stumbling block over traffic safety and parking.

The HSE proposal on the 4.4-acre site is for 25 bedrooms (with 50 beds) and a 10-bed dementia unit, all to be located behind Unit 10 at the far end of the Merlin Park campus.

However, the City Council wrote to the HSE earlier this month and said that a Traffic Impact Assessment included with the planning application did not take Merlin Park Lane (the access point behind the hospital) into consideration.

The Council has sought a revised traffic assessment, which must also address rat-running through the hospital and how it will be controlled.

The HSE has also been told to take into account their own masterplan for Merlin Park – which includes a new 1,150-bed elective hospital and a new ambulance base – and the fact that the main access on the Old Dublin Road “is not suitable in its current format and signalisation needs to be considered”.

Clarification has also been sought on parking in general and how spaces would be managed.

According to the HSE, the reason for the proposal is the replacement of Units 5 & 6 (community care) at the hospital, as they are out of date and do not meet the current requirements of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) for patient quality.

The plans are part of a nationwide HSE proposal to deliver Community Nursing Units (CNUs) nationwide and is part of a specific bundle to construct nine units under a Public-Private Partnership programme.

“In general, a CNU is a residential care centre, providing modern in-patient accommodation and a variety of services/facilities for its residents, i.e., en suite bedrooms, family overnight rooms, communal day rooms for residents (sun rooms, activity rooms, quiet rooms), therapy rooms, hairdressing salon, pharmacy, kitchen/catering facilities and associated support, back of house and staff areas,” the application reads.

The plan involves the demolition of a carpenter’s workshop, storerooms and a former nurses’ accommodation building.

There are 91 parking spaces proposed on the site, including 28 south of Doughiska Road.

An objection on behalf of nine residents of Merlin Park Lane – the rear entry point to the hospital – pointed out that the use of the road for construction traffic would create “calamitous implications on an already catastrophic situation for residents and pedestrians”.

The objection notes that the cul de sac is a low-density residential area and was only ever intended to provide access to the hospital at designated peak times.

“The proposed development will result in the intensification of traffic flow through Merlin Park Lane which will be hazardous to residents and pedestrians alike.”

According to the application, the access gate is open 8am to 10am and 4pm to 6pm on weekdays only.

Residents added that the lane is four metres wide at a point just 100 metres from the rear gate of the hospital, and a 400-metre stretch has no footpaths or lighting.

Residents already have much difficulty in accessing and leaving their homes because of the volume of traffic, the objections said.

Rock-breaking would also “cause great upset, potential liability for residents and will interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of all residents”.

A separate objection signed by three residents of Merlin Park Lane said they were not against the development “as it seeks to deliver much-needed facilities to the greater community”, but traffic concerns had not been adequately addressed within the application process.

The objection noted that the Merlin Park Lane was not assessed as part of the Traffic Impact Assessment included with the application.

“No traffic monitoring calculations or projections for this access road are included. This is totally misleading in relation to the current traffic difficulties associated with this entrance and also the impact of the proposed development. It is strange that the closest access point to the development receives no detailed analysis whatsoever.

“The reality is that Merlin Park Lane has become a rat run for city-bound traffic in recent years. The intended restricted use for staff members of the hospital, whilst well intended, is not controlled in any way and this lack of control has resulted in the current situation. A combined analysis of traffic at both entrances would clearly evidence this,” the objection reads.

It adds that residents met with senior hospital officials on a number of occasions and a simple solution of installing an automatic managed traffic barrier was dismissed due to lack of funding.

The HSE has until October 1 to respond to the Council or the application will be deemed to be withdrawn.


Council rows back on ‘reduced delays’ projections for Kirwan junction



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Motorists have described it as ‘a disaster’ and a former mayor has said the project gave very poor value for money, but Galway City Council have this week asked the public to be patient with the revamped Kirwan junction, close to the Menlo Park Hotel.

Since the four-arm signalled junction opened early last week, motorists have complained of traffic queues stretching back to the Quincentenary Bridge and Corrib Park.

And now the Council has rowed back on its consultants’ claims that the junction would increase capacity by 15% and reduce waiting times by 25%.

Former mayor and local taxi driver, Cllr Frank Fahy, told the Galway City Tribune that given the negative impact of the junction on traffic, the €5 million spent on the project represented ‘very poor value’ as regards taxpayers’ money.

“I will admit that the junction is now safer for pedestrians in that they can hit a button to give them a safe crossing, but since it opened there have some very serious traffic tailbacks,” said Cllr Fahy.

However, City Council Acting Director of Services for Transport, Uinsinn Finn, told the Galway City Tribune that the new junction needed time to ‘bed in’ with a familiarisation process.

“The main objectives of this project were to make far safer for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate, as well as making it safer for motorists too, without impacting [negatively] on the traffic flow,” said Mr Finn.

He added that since it opened – and over the coming few weeks – data on all aspects of how the junction was functioning would be compiled which could involve changes to light sequencing, lanes and peak traffic flows.

One motorist who contacted this newspaper said that the daily “nightmare” journey from the Barna Road to the Headford Road during the morning peak traffic time had added up to 40 minutes to his journey time.

“The two lanes are regularly gridlocked from the junction, back the N6, over the Quincentenary Bridge and back to Corrib Park.

“In the mornings, it’s now easier to go down Taylor’s Hill and into town, past Eyre Square and up Bohermore to get down to the Headford Road.

Councillors were told by consultants in 2017 and again in 2018 – when they voted to proceed with the changeover to a junction – that average delays would be reduced by 25% and junction capacity would increase by 15%.
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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Man hospitalised following Eyre Square assault



Gardaí have appealed to the public for information into an assault in Eyre Square last weekend which led to a young man being hospitalised.

The victim of the assault – a man in his early 20s from the city area – suffered a cut to his knee and may have had a substance sprayed towards his eyes.

Following the incident – that occurred close to the Eyre Square taxi rank shortly after midnight on Saturday night last – the victim was taken by ambulance to University Hospital Galway.

It is understood that the victim was released later that morning and has made a full recovery. This week, Gardaí are poring over CCTV footage in an effort to try and identify the perpetrators of the assault.

The assailants are understood to have fled on foot after the incident towards St Patrick’s Avenue on the east side of Eyre Square.

A Garda spokesperson has appealed for anyone who was in the vicinity of the taxi rank on Eyre Square between 12 midnight and 12.30am on the Sunday morning (Saturday night) of July 25 last, and who may have witnessed the incident to contact them.

(Photo: the assailants fled on foot towards St Patrick’s Avenue off Eyre Square)
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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Council turns down controversial phone mast plan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Galway City Council has refused an application by Eircom to erect a 12-metre telecoms mast in a housing estate in Knocknacarra.

The local authority turned down the company’s application for planning permission to install the structure in the heart of Drom Óir over concerns that it would create a visual obstruction in a residential area – and would have a detrimental impact on property prices.

Eircom had also sought retention to keep a concrete foundation for the mast in situ after it was forced to abandon works earlier this year, amid protests from residents in Drom Óir and Leitir Burca. This was also rejected.

City planners issued the company with a warning letter in April to cease works after contractors on site drew the ire of nearby residents, who accused Eircom of seeking to install the mast ‘by stealth’.

A total of 26 letters of objection were submitted to the Council from residents of the two estate.
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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