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Deadline ‘must be extended’ for turbines in Galway Bay

Dara Bradley

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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.

CITY TRIBUNE

€3bn plan for new hospitals at Merlin Park

Denise McNamara

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How the 200-bed elective hospital may 'fit' into the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A 1,150-bed acute hospital and a separate 200-bed elective hospital at Merlin Park – costing in the region of €3 billion and taking up to 15 years to deliver – are included in a new report on health infrastructure needs for Galway.

A review of hospital requirements has produced ambitious proposals for the elective hospital – costing around €1.2bn and taking a decade to build – and acute hospital to replace UHG which would take 15 years to deliver.

The so-called ‘options appraisal’ conducted on behalf of the Saolta University Health Care Group concluded that separating acute and planned services – through the development of a purpose-built elective facility – will greatly improve efficiency and patient access by reducing waiting times and cancellations.

It will allow the Saolta Hospital Group to significantly increase the level of day surgery and reduce length of stay for patients.

Currently there are 46,000 people on a waiting list between the two hospitals with a further 14,000 patients travelling to Dublin from the Saolta region every year for treatment.

“The demand capacity gap will grow to a shortfall of 276 beds at Galway University Hospitals [UHG and Merlin combined] alone. Do nothing is not an option,” consultants KPMG wrote.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Minister gives go-ahead to army accommodation plan

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The USAC complex in Renmore, which is set to be redeveloped.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A 50-year-old building at Dún Uí Mhaoilíosa in Renmore is to be renovated to provide additional accommodation for members of the Defence Forces, the Minister for Defence has confirmed.

Minister Paul Kehoe (FG) told the Dáil that the former University Students Administrative Complement (USAC) complex would be redesigned to accommodate 120 persons living in single rooms.

“The rooms are fitted out to a basic standard and ablution facilities are provided communally. The building is nearly 50 years old and does not meet current standards with respect to building constriction methodology, fire prevention measures and energy efficiency,” said Minister Kehoe.

While currently in its early design stages, it is expected that construction work would commence late next year, he added.

USAC is a purpose-built facility constructed in the 1970s to accommodate Officers of the Defence Forces undertaking courses at third level institutes in Galway.

While located adjacent to the barracks in Renmore, it is outside the confines of the barracks and is self-contained with its own access and parking.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Taskforce gets down to work in Ballybane

Enda Cunningham

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Aoife Tully having fun in Ballybane Playground.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Ballybane Task Force is on a mission.

Since the cooperative made up of all major stakeholders set up two years ago, they have set themselves the goal of highlighting the positive work in train in the eastern suburb while providing support for community, voluntary and residents’ groups that currently operate.

They also want to encourage the participation of all locals – new and long-term – in activities while giving support to developing projects and initiatives.

Already the Task Force has spearheaded some tangible results. Last week, a homework club for secondary school students opened and an afterschool service for primary students will begin in January following the recruitment of staff.

There was further good news earlier this year with the redevelopment of the derelict Ballybane Neighbourhood Centre. It is set to be transformed into a revitalised enterprise centre, scheduled to be open in January.

One of the first tasks the group pursued was to identify gaps in resources and services across Ballybane and lay out a blueprint for action.

They secured funding to appoint a consultant to review this in depth and make recommendations.

The results of that needs analysis have just been published. Its overview of the area’s deprivation makes for stark reading.

Ballybane is described as the area where the older housing estates are bordered by Ballybane Road, Monivea Road and the Dublin Road, but excluding the Doughiska development.

It has a male unemployment rate of 25% or over – compared to a 15% average in the city – a lone parent rate of 35% or higher (24% in the city) and a 35% rate of children leaving school in the early years of secondary school (17%). Just one fifth go onto third level, compared to half elsewhere in the city.

This is a preview only. To read the rest of this feature on the regeneration of ballybane, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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