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Developers warned to build or ‘pay up’

Dara Bradley

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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

Glass roof over Latin Quarter among raft of proposals to Galway City Council

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to put a roof over the Latin Quarter – with outdoor heaters to combat Galway’s changeable weather – is among a raft of suggestions that will be considered by the Council as it draws up the next City Development Plan.

The widespread use of outdoor theatre and extended opening hours for retail and cultural attractions are also on the cards as members of the public and lobby groups push for a city that offers the broadest range of tourist attractions.

As part of series of measures put forward to improve the outdoor offering in the city, one submission – which is understood to have been noted by the Council Chief Executive Brendan McGrath in his report on plan, which is at ‘pre-draft’ stage – is to put a glass ceiling on the city centre’s main commercial thoroughfares.

Planners are currently considering the proposal as part of more than 500 submissions made to Council in the first public consultation for the document, which will shape development in the city for six years after 2023.

It’s proposed that by covering the length of Quay Street/Latin Quarter in high retractable glass panes ‘mounted on decorative supports’, and installing street heaters, ‘a comfortable outdoor ambiance could be created’.

This is one of almost 50 submissions made in the area of economic development, where the theme of improving the city’s night-time economy and tourism offering feature prominently.

In another submission from Fáilte Ireland, the tourism authority expresses its desire that the next City Development Plan should have a chapter dedicated to tourism, such is its importance to the city’s economic success.

As well as developing Galway’s growing reputation as a ‘foodie destination’, developing the night-time economy is identified as being ‘an important aspect of ensuring a vibrant city centre and means more than just developing a bar and restaurant culture’.
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

100 new jobs for Galway City Sports Direct outlet

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Sports Direct retail giant is set to create up to 100 new jobs when it takes over the former Debenhams department store in the Corrib Shopping Centre.

And the company’s sister outlet Heatons looks set to make a return to the city – possibly in the same building, although management are remaining tight-lipped.

Sports Direct has taken a lease on the Debenhams premises, which has been vacant since before the pandemic, and it will open in June.

“The 65,000 sq ft store will comprise four floors and will consist of Sports Direct, USC and Brand Max. 100 jobs for the store will be created,” a spokesperson confirmed to the Galway City Tribune.

The spokesperson could not confirm that the Heatons brand – which is also owned by English billionaire Mike Ashley – will also be opening as part of the move. The group is currently advertising for staff to work at a new Heatons store in Galway.
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

Forty firefighters tackle major blaze at Galway golf shop

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Up to 40 firefighters from across the city and county fought a major fire at the GolfStyle superstore off the Tuam Road for around six hours on Thursday morning.

Gardaí on routine patrol in the Liosbán Business Park shortly before 3am noticed smoke coming from the roof of the building and immediately alerted the fire service.

The building, which was unoccupied at the time, is understood to have suffered major structural and roof damage in the fire that started in the first floor.

At one point, 11 fire engines from the city, Athenry, Loughrea, Carraroe and Gort fought the blaze, using water tankers and aerial ladders, as well as having a command unit in place.

Firemen equipped with breathing apparatus also had to force their way into the building to tackle the source of the fire, that possibly could have been caused by an electrical problem.

The fire was brought under control at around 7.30am, but the Fire Brigade remained at the scene for a number of hours afterwards in case of any secondary outbreak.
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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