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Connacht Tribune

Crackdown is working on fly-tipping

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Galway County Council’s campaign to stamp out illegal dumping is working, a meeting of the County Joint Policing Committee has heard.

According to Chair of the JPC’s Illegal Dumping & Littering sub-committee, Cllr Michael ‘Moegie’ Maher, the €82,000 spent by the local authority cleaning up litter blackspots has rid many areas of the scourge of illegal dumping – with an investment in CCTV cameras acting as a deterrent for repeat offenders.

In many cases, culprits have been rooted out, by means of anonymous reports or by searching the rubbish for evidence which may reveal their identity, said the Loughrea-based councillor, adding that the Council is successfully bringing the culprits before the courts.

“It’s great to note that there are cases in front of the courts for people who were caught dumping. These people have been warned, on radio, in the papers, all over the place.

“I’m not sorry for them,” said Cllr Maher.

CCTV cameras have been installed, or are due to be installed, in a number of locations known for regular dumping. The cameras, which are hidden in boxes, could be placed anywhere, said Cllr Maher, and so those engaged in the activity are unaware they are being watched.

He praised the work of Gardaí who join forces with community wardens to tackle the problem – an approach he said had been hugely successful.

“The initiative we are taking is working and I think we need to promote Galway as a green county,” said Cllr Maher.

However, he warned that staff numbers in the Environment Section at County Hall would need to be increased if the problem was to be solved once and for all.

“I am calling on Galway County Council to make sure there is enough staff because presently, there is not.

“The people who are illegally dumping are not always nice people to deal with and it is understaffed,” said Cllr Maher.

Chair of the Joint Policing Committee, Cllr Peter Roche (FG) said despite the “exorbitant” cost of carrying out clean-ups, the benefits were “extremely welcome”.

Referring to one particular area that has been cleared in Abbeyknockmoy, Cllr Roche said it was now a popular route for local walkers.

“The one thing that must come from us, as a Council, is resources. I don’t want it to be that we’d ever, as the local authority, be skimping with the resources we employ or deploy in tackling this blight on society.

“Anyone who thinks it’s okay, or continues repeatedly dumping, won’t get away with it for too long,” said Cllr Roche.

Cllr Maher said the sub-committee had also been working with local businesses to reduce waste and packaging and praised one local fast food outlet for the example they had set.

“I have to compliment Supermac’s. They have set up a green team in each of their outlets and they do a litter pick after closing, 100 yards to each side of the business.

“They have reduced packaging and I have to compliment Pat and Una McDonagh for that,” he said.

The sub-committee has been working to encourage businesses to eliminate single-use plastics in favour of items like paper straws and reusable cups.

Cllr Maher said they were in talks with the Council to ensure that all of its operations would be setting an example, and called on the Gardaí to do the same.

Connacht Tribune

Unauthorised developments in County Galway go unchecked for months

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The Planning Enforcement Section of Galway County Council is so understaffed that complaints of unauthorised developments are not being investigated for months, the Connacht Tribune has learned.

In one case, a complaint alleging a house was under construction in a picturesque and environmentally sensitive part of Conamara without planning permission was not investigated by the Council for at least six months.

And it can be revealed that there is a ‘large’ backlog of complaints of unauthorised developments in the county, which the Planning Enforcement Section at County Hall has blamed on staff shortages, according to correspondence obtained by the Connacht Tribune under Freedom of Information (FOI).

In response to repeated requests by a concerned member of the public to intervene and investigate an allegation of unauthorised development in an environmentally protected area of Conamara, the Council’s Planning Department indicated it was too stretched.

“Unfortunately, the planning enforcement section is experiencing a period of prolonged staff shortages and consequently there are a large number of files awaiting investigation/review,” it said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Access Centre provides pathways to University of Galway for the disadvantaged

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Photo of Imelda Byrne

Great leaps have been made in recent years to make access to tertiary level education a realistic prospect for once marginalised groups in society.

With the deadline for CAO applications approaching next week, the Access Centre at the University of Galway is aiming to reach as many underrepresented groups as possible ahead of next academic term.

Head of the Access Centre, Imelda Byrne (pictured), said research has shown that those who once felt third level ‘wasn’t for them’ are increasing their presence at UG, and bringing a richness to the sector that had for a long time been missing.

In the five years up to 2021, there was a 100% increase in the number of students registering for the Disability Support Service at the university, while those coming from Further Education and Training courses in institutes like GTI had surged by 211% over four years.

“The message that we really need to get out there is that the CAO is not the only route into third level. There are a number of pathways,” says Imelda.

“There are loads of places set aside for students coming from a place of disadvantage,” she continues, whether it’s national schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for socio-economic disadvantage; or the Disability Access Route to Education (DARE); or the university’s own programme for mature students.

Those places are there to ensure those from all backgrounds get an opportunity to reach their education potential, tapping into hugely talented groups that once may have missed that opportunity.

“What we have seen is that when they get that opportunity, they do just as well if not better than other students,” continues Imelda.

For HEAR and DARE scheme applicants, and for those hoping to begin higher education as a mature student, next Wednesday’s CAO deadline is critically important.

But beyond the CAO applications, the Access Programme will open up in March to guide prospective students, whatever challenges they are facing, into third level.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Galway County Council ‘missing out on millions’ in derelict sites levies

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Photo of Cloonabinnia House

Galway County Council is missing out on millions of euro in untapped revenue due to a failure to compile a complete Derelict Sites Register.

That’s according to Galway East Sinn Féin representative, Louis O’Hara, who this week blasted the news that just three properties across the whole county are currently listed on the register.

As a result, Mr O’Hara said the Derelict Sites Levy was not being utilised effectively as countless crumbling properties remained unregistered – the levy amounts to 7% of the market value of the derelict property annually.

The former general election candidate said Galway County Council was ill-equipped to compile a proper list of derelict sites and called on Government to provide the necessary resources to tackle the scourge of dereliction across.

“There are still only three properties listed on Galway County Council’s Derelict Sites Register . . . anyone in Galway knows that this does not reflect the reality on the ground and more must be done to identify properties, and penalise owners who fail to maintain them,” said Mr O’Hara.

The situation was compounded by the fact that the Council failed to collect any of the levies due to them in 2021.

“This is deeply concerning when we know that dereliction is a blight on our communities. Derelict sites attract rats, anti-social behaviour and dumping, and are an eyesore in many of our local towns and villages.”

“The Derelict Sites Levy should be used as a tool by local authorities to raise revenue that can then be utilised to tackle dereliction, but they are not adequately resourced to identify and pursue these property owners,” said Mr O’Hara.

(Photo: The former Cloonabinnia House Hotel is on the Derelict Sites Register).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.

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