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CITY TRIBUNE

Decision looms on overhaul plan for North Point development

Enda Cunningham

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A decision is due at the end of the month on an appeal to An Bord Pleanála against a planning condition imposed on overhaul plans for the North Point retail and office development on the Tuam Road – most of which has been vacant for the past decade.

The new owners of the building are planning a change of use of the upper floors of the building to medical clinic use (including a renal dialysis unit) and specialist office space for around 400 workers.

ALC (Glenamaddy) Ltd – which is owned by Galway brothers Michael and Albert Conneally of Glenman Corporation – were granted permission by Galway City Council last year for changes to the basement and ground level parking to include electric vehicle charging points, motorbike parking and bike spaces.

They also received permission to change the first floor from industrial usage to medical clinic use and to change the permitted wholesale retail usage to office space.

On the second floor, the owners propose to construct specialist office space, with solar panels on roof level overhead.

There are also proposals to give the facades of the building an overhaul and new signage.

Despite an objection from Dundalk-based businessman Sean O’Hanlon – who argued that the medical clinic would not be compatible with the ‘CI’ (Enterprise, Light Industry and Commercial) zoning – the Council granted permission.

The Council stated that a precedent had been established at Harrmack House on the Tuam Road where a unit’s usage had been changed from bulky retail to medical use and that a medical clinic would not compete directly with the primacy of the city centre.

According to the application, the proposal will help to address the problem with most of the building lying vacant.

“Unfortunately, this development has suffered from periods of high vacancy. In an effort to eliminate this, the owners have been in consultation with a number of potential clients as to how the space could be maximised or manipulated to cater for differing economic needs.

“It is after this consultation that this application has been arrived at, whereby the building owner is seeking to provide the maximum floor space within the existing building with associated uses that the market is seeking at the moment.

“The proposed development also allows for improved landscaping, electric vehicle charging stations, solar panels at roof level and all-round improvements to the existing building.

“The proposal seeks to remedy legacy vacancy issues that the North Point development has suffered from by maximising the development’s potential, improving the general external areas and diversifying the unit uses. This would be positive for the area,” the application reads.

The Council approved the application, but said that prior to the occupation of the units, the precise details of the proposed occupants must first be agreed on by the local authority.

A Mobility Management Plan – for staff and visitors to the building – must also be drawn up prior to occupation and a financial contribution of just over €170,000 must be made to the Council towards the cost of providing public services in the immediate area.

The City Council had raised concerns about the building’s non-compliance with fire and building regulations and ordered a full structural survey.

Structural engineers were appointed to assess the building and have detailed remedial works for structural deficiencies which were required. Further calculations on the foundations will be carried out now that planning permission has been granted.

Assurances have also been provided to the Chief Fire Officer that any issue with non-compliance with fire regulations will be addressed now that planning permission has been granted.

A stipulation was also attached that revised drawings be submitted showing the omission of 27 parking spaces at the rear (Ballybane) entrance to the site.

That condition was subsequently appealed by the new owners who said the Council’s rationale was flawed and that it would have a detrimental impact on the function of the property.

“Due to the fact that a number of the units are accessed from the rear and the nature of the proposed uses of the units, it is seen as imperative that some surface parking is provided in this area.

“Not only will this support the effective use of the units, but were these spaces to be omitted from them design, it is seen as inevitable that ad hoc roadside parking will occur along the rear estate road and impact on the effective flow of traffic in the area,” the appeal reads.

The appellants added that the parking spaces would be critical to the function of the dialysis unit and their omission would cause unnecessary exertion for patients.

A decision on the appeal is expected by March 31.

The entire North Point complex was developed in 2008 by Tom Considine and Paddy Sweeney at an estimated cost of around €30 million and was constructed by Glenman Corporation.

The Conneally brothers are understood to have purchased most of the building in early 2019 for €2.25 million. Some of the units are separately owned.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
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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CITY TRIBUNE

Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
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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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
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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