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County towns to benefit from grant scheme

Dara Bradley

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Seven County Galway towns and one village will share €380,000 in funding under the Government’s scheme to ‘renew’ rural Ireland.

But the tiny budget allocation was blasted as ‘throwing a bone’ to country communities in Galway, in the same fortnight billions of Euros of investment was pledged for Dublin.

Small scale projects in Athenry, Rosmuc, Oughterard, Ballinasloe, Gort, Tuam, Portumna and Loughrea will each receive grants of between €20,000 and €85,000.

Three of the projects are for upgrading footpaths, which absorb almost 50% of the Galway allocation.

The announcement by Minister Heather Humphreys was welcomed by Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs, Seán Kyne but it came under fire from his Galway West rival, Éamon Ó Cuív, who said the investment was far too small to make a real impact.

The full list of the projects for Galway towns and villages to benefit in the renewal scheme include: €70,000 for Athenry footpaths; €42,000 for Rosmuc footpaths; €20,000 for the development of a walking and bike trail in Oughterard; €63,000 for footpaths in Ballinasloe; €50,000 for footpaths, landscaping and a playground in Gort; €85,000 for the renovations to Tuam’s historic mill wheel; €25,000 for upgrading amenities in Portumna Forest Park; and €25,000 “to develop a report to guide plans for the future of Loughrea”.

Deputy Ó Cuív said all of the recipients of money will be pleased to be included but he said the ‘bigger picture’ was that rural Ireland is being ignored, while massive sums of State money is being pumped into Dublin.

“Everything is micro when it comes to rural Ireland and everything is macro when it comes to Dublin. Rural Ireland is given the crumbs from the rich man’s table,” said the Fianna Fáil opposition spokesperson on regional development, rural affairs and the Gaeltacht.

He said the allocation made to rural towns and villages amounted to less than €10 million, which would only “scratch the surface” of what is required.

“They don’t seem to get it into their heads that rural Ireland needs investment equivalent to what Dublin is getting,” he added.

Deputy Ó Cuív said Government just announced €200 million for housing for mostly Dublin and cities. It announced further investment in Metro North and the underground DART, which amounts to billions of euro. A further €900 million was pledged this week to pipe water from the midlands to Dublin and funding has been committed for three new hospitals in Dublin.

“Dublin needs all of those things, but what the Government doesn’t seem to realise is that rural Ireland needs similar levels of investment, spread out over the country. A grant of €380,000 for each county, which is still only €9 million, is way off the billions that is being invested in projects in Dublin. There seems to be no scale when it comes to investment in rural Ireland and yet the money in Dublin runs to billions. The disparity is ridiculous,” said Deputy Ó Cuív.

He pointed said it was farcical that the grants were announced in November, six weeks before the year-end. “Heather Humphrey’s department is awash with money. She has only spent 40% of capital allocations by the end of October. Why isn’t it being spent,” he asked.

Minister Kyne said this year’s allocation was welcome, and there was a pledge for further investment to continue the pilot scheme next year.

The Fine Gael TD said: “The €380,000 funding for Galway, which is being administered by Galway County Council, is part of the national €10 million ‘Town and Village Renewal Scheme’. The Scheme aims to fund projects which increase the attractiveness of towns and villages as local commercial and social centres while enhancing infrastructure and amenities for residents, businesses and visitors.

“With Budget 2017, Minister Humphreys secured a trebling of the allocation bringing to €30 million the funding that will be available for similar projects next year which will build on the important projects being funded this year.”

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site

Dara Bradley

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An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.

The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.

It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.

In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.

“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”

The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.

A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.

A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.

It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.

Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.

The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.

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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG student accommodation firm records loss

Enda Cunningham

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The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.

However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.

Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.

The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.

Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.

The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.

Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.

Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.

The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).

The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.

It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.

As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.

It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.

In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan

Dara Bradley

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Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.

Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.

The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.

It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.

Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.

Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.

“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”

The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.

He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.

“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.

“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.

“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.

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