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Developers warned to build or ‘pay up’

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Developers ‘sitting’ on city land that is suitable for housing will be hit with hefty fines to encourage them to build.

The local authority is to be handed new powers by Government to entice developers to start building houses again.

The measure is one part of the Government’s plans to tackle the country’s housing shortage, and homelessness.

It is part of the Urban Regeneration and Housing Bill 2015, which will allow Galway City Council to identify sites that could be used for housing, and with planning permission.

Galway’s planners could then slap a levy on builders and landowners who are waiting, some of them for land prices to rise, before they begin construction of homes again.

Minister of State for Housing, Paudie Coffey, said his new legislation would tackle the problem of vacant and idle land and improve housing supply in Galway.

He said the new legislation is two-pronged. First it introduces a new vacant site levy on housing or regeneration lands suitable for housing but not coming forward for development.

And it also brings into law new measures to “streamline housing delivery” including revisions to social housing and development contributions requirements.

He said it was now up to Galway City Council, “to examine their development plans from now into 2016 and identify sites that are ready to go but are not advancing and, where there are critical housing shortages, to prepare vacant sites registers and contact owners.”

The junior minister said that landowners would have time to discuss the issues with the local authority but he said the Government hoped that the threat of a financial levy “will start people thinking about getting strategically located but idle sites into more beneficial use”.

He said the new legislation will enable the City Council to retrospectively implement reductions of development charges in respect of existing but un-commenced planning permissions – improving the economics of new housing development and easing the housing shortage.

“The aim and priority of the suite of measures is to kick-start construction activity and secure social housing units on-site. To that end, the practice of developers making cash payments in lieu of social housing is discontinued under the new legislation,” added Mr Coffey.

Elsewhere, Fine Gael TD, John O’Mahony, said some 87 new homes in Galway for elderly people and those with intellectual or physical disability will be provided by Government. It is part of a nationwide housing plan.

“This is fantastic news. It will directly benefit these individuals and their families and will greatly help to reduce the pressure on Galway City and County Councils.

Furthermore it will provide us with a legacy of improved housing stock for those who are unable to provide for themselves. It is extremely welcome that we will have these new dedicated social housing units to provide these supports to those who find themselves in need of housing support,” said Deputy O’Mahony.

Meanwhile, Galway West TD, Derek Nolan said the provision of funding to provide student-specific accommodation in Galway must be a priority.

“Galway is suffering from a real shortage in private rented accommodation. This shortage is made worse by a lack of suitable accommodation for third level students in the city. As a result we are seeing increasing rents and a lowering of standards across the sector.

“At present there are almost 25,000 third-level students in Galway and this number looks set to rise in the coming years. While a certain number of these students will live at home or with other family members, the majority will require student specific accommodation for the duration of their three or four year stay in Galway. It is crucial that these needs are met,” said the Labour Party TD.

CITY TRIBUNE

Bikers do their bit to mark anniversary of blood service

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The Blood Bike team and supporters with the charity’ s newest motorbike, Cara, during the fundraising day at the Galway Plaza. Pictured are (from left) John Moylan, Bridie Lyons (Fundraising Manager), Sean Griffin, Fergus Turner, James Treacy, Pat McDonagh, Dave O'Leary (Chairperson), Ronan Kane (Fleet Manager), and Sergio Massidda.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Blood Bike West, and the big birthday was marked in style with a sun-drenched afternoon at Galway Plaza’s Bike Fest West.

Galway stuntman Mattie Griffin was the headline attraction; there was face painting, games, plenty of ice-cream – and hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts and families.

The birthday celebrations kicked off with a 160-strong motorcycle spin around the Galway countryside, raising well-needed funds for the volunteering efforts of Blood Bike West.

As a 100% volunteer-run and funded organisation, donations are vitally important for Blood Bike West to continue operating their medical transport in the West of Ireland.

Since its inception in 2012, demand for their volunteers’ services continues to grow:  collecting and delivering all manner of urgent medical items regionally and nationally, such as bloods, breast milk, medicines, scans, and equipment.

In 2021 alone, Blood Bike West delivered 983 urgent medical deliveries throughout the country.

As part of Galway City Councils Community, Blood Bike West undertook to operate a 24/7 service, including 165 medication deliveries from pharmacies to the self-isolating and vulnerable during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Since Blood Bike West’s inception in 2012, this increase sees the ongoing need to replace and renew their fleet of motorcycles.

Their motorbikes, Madison, Heather, Margaret, and newly inaugurated bike Cara, are regularly seen on Galway roads, delivering consignments to and from local and regional hospitals.

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

Park fun to mark Africa Day

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Pam Mncube-Zoki of Africa United Galway, speaking at the National Integration Conference at NUI Galway last week. The group are co-organisers of Africa Day which takes place in Salthill Park on May 28. Photo:xposure

On Saturday next (May 28) in Salthill Park, Galway’s African community invites people to join them in a celebration of culture as part of the national Africa Day celebrations.

Africa United Galway, emerging from lockdown and having hosted online festivals for the past two years, will be delivering a family fun day event.

Africa Day 2022 will reinforce a collaboration between Africa United Galway and Galway Africa Diaspora, Shining Light Galway and GoCom Radio (broadcasting live), who have worked to create a festival that will showcase Galway as a city of culture.

Among the performances on the day will be Afrobeat dancer Lapree Lala of Southside Moves, who will show how to dance in African style; Elikya Band will be bringing indigenous African Congolese music; The Youth Performances will be displaying their talent in rap, singing, speaking, and dancing and for the young at heart.

Galway Afrobeat performer Dave Kody will get the crowd moving and there will be poetry through spoken word and cultural displays. There will be a photo booth and face painting and everyone will get to have a taste of African cuisines.

In the spirit of inclusion and integration, The St Nicholas Collegiate Church Parish Choir will be presenting a special African performance as well as a feature presentation by the Hession School of Irish Dance, who will be presenting the famous Riverdance.

Also organised is a football friendly between the African community and An Garda Siochana.

The Mayor, Colette Connolly, will officially be opening the event with a keynote speech and several African Ambassadors are expected to be present on the day to reinforce the culture, beauty and strength of Africa and support for its people.

Africa Day is sponsored by Irish Aid and supported by Galway City Council.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Domestic Violence Response recorded highest number of clients in 24 years under Covid ‘shadow’

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At the launch of the Domestic Violence Response (DVR) Annual Report were Rachel Doyle and Elizabeth Power of DVR, Deputy Catherine Connolly and Anne Reynolds. Photos Sean Lydon

BY TIFFANY GREENWALDT-SIMON

A domestic violence support charity in Galway has recorded its highest number of clients in 24 years – “under the shadow” of Covid-19.

Domestic Violence Response (DVR), which is based in Moycullen, also reported its highest level of counselling support sessions in its 2021 annual report published last week.

The charity saw 136 new clients in 2021, and a total of 266 people utilised its services. It also saw a significant increase of return service users.

The support service also provided 51 nights of emergency accommodation through a partnership between Airbnb, Safe Ireland, and Women’s Aid.

Elizabeth Power, Coordinator of DVR Galway, said: “Our 2021 annual report highlights the stark reality of the level of domestic violence in Galway. Under the shadow of Covid-19, DVR recorded the highest number of clients in our 24-year history and delivered the highest number of support services.

“Our staff noted increases in the level of worrying and harrowing experiences of control and abuse. The trauma of these experiences will live with our service users long after Covid-19 fades into memory.

“While Covid-19 restrictions are behind us, domestic violence continues to be present in hundreds of homes throughout Galway.

“As we move through 2022, we will continue to provide our much-needed services to women and men throughout Galway, with an extensive counselling support and advocacy service and a number of new initiatives including a partnership with the HSE which will be launched in the coming months.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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