The Marine Institute has ‘lost the trust’ of residents in An Spidéal over its handling of its application for a foreshore lease for renewable energy test site in Galway Bay, according to a Dáil Deputy.
Independent Galway West TD, Catherine Connolly said the whole consultation process has been a “complete mess” and badly handled by Foras na Mara.
Deputy Connolly has called on the Marine Institute, and the Minister for Marine, to extend the deadline of the public consultation period, so that concerned residents can make informed submissions about the project in the bay off Spiddal.
“Trust between Foras na Mara (Marine Institute), and what they are calling the stakeholders, who are the residents and people who this test site impacts, has broken down,” she said.
“Foras na Mara and the Government has made a mess of this. People do not trust them. They are concerned about this project because there has been so much confusion about it,” she said.
Some 70 people attended a public meeting in Connemara Coast Hotel last week, where four people from Marine Institute explained the project.
Deputy Connolly was in attendance with Dáil constituency colleagues Éamon Ó Cuív (FF) and Hildegarde Naughten (FG), and senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh (SF).
Deputy Connolly said the Marine Institute agreed to host this public meeting only after she raised the matter in the Dáil.
“They held a meeting on a Tuesday in June, and the closing date for submissions was that Friday. That’s no way to consult the public. They have extended the deadline twice now after I raised it in the Dáil.
“The consensus at Thursday’s public meeting was there is a need to extend the deadline for a third time. It is a very complex matter and residents want time to examine it in detail.
The deadline is next Tuesday, August 2, but that isn’t sufficient time and I’ve called for the deadline to be extended. The people at the Marine Institute, who are the applicants, said they would not object to an extension again,” said Deputy Connolly.
Some of the confusion is of Marine Institute’s own making, which has further aroused suspicions, she said.
The Marine institute’s original application stated it was seeking permission to deploy three turbines of 60 metres in height.
However, it has since corrected its application and insists that the “devices” will be half that height.
“A prototype floating wind turbine being tested on the site could have a blade tip at maximum 35m above sea level while wave energy converters would be up to 5m above sea level,” it said.
It has applied for a 35-years lease, and the wind turbines will be on site “intermittently”.
The application states that there will be a limit of three ocean energy test devices deployed at any one time for a period of testing “no greater than 18 months”.
Deputy Connolly said a lease was stronger than a licence, and residents are worried that the lease allows it to be sublet possibly to private companies.
They are concerned also about the length of the lease – 35 years; about the size of the area being covered, which is 37 hectares; and about their insistence that it is a “test site” but that it is not referred to as such in the application.
An existing ten-year lease granted in 2006 was for wave energy and made no reference to wind energy or turbines. This has been extended for a year but residents are unclear about the terms of that extension, she said.
“I come at this from a position in which I am 100% supportive of renewable energy because we have to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But we have to bring the people with us, there has to be proper consultation that addresses the concerns of residents. Trust has completely broken down, and they have made a mess of this,” added Deputy Connolly.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh, in a statement, said he is supportive of an extension of time for the application.
“I would suggest that an extension of four to six months would be the amount of time needed to allow people to make proper and considered submissions,” said Senator Ó Clochartaigh in a letter to the Minister.
Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site
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.
NUIG student accommodation firm records loss
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.
Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan
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.