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€11m hotel plan shot down for ‘poor architectural quality’

Enda Cunningham



Planners have rejected a proposal to build a new 84-bedroom hotel at Victoria Place in the city centre, describing the design as “poor architectural quality” and failing to comply with fire safety regulations.

Galway hotelier Ricky Byrne has sought permission for the €11 million scheme, involving the demolition of the former snooker club beside his Victoria Hotel to make way for a hotel with six floors of accommodation over ground floor and basement.

The plans included a total of 215 bed spaces in 84 en suite rooms, as well as a lobby, kitchen, dining hall and café on the ground floor, with basement storage.

However, planners have rejected the application outright, ruling it would have a negative impact on the area.

“The overall poor design, including the scale, massing, height and low-quality visual appearance of the proposed hotel, the resultant expression onto the city centre streetscape, the unacceptable interface with the neighbouring protected structures, the adjacent Eyre Square and City Centre Architectural Conservation Areas and the lack of an acceptable form of infill into the streetscape context all contribute to the unacceptable nature of the development.

“This is exacerbated by the use of poor quality architectural forms, including a highly visual, dominant, triple mansard roof, an expansive blank side elevation, along with use of poor quality architectural materials, providing for an unacceptable design resolution for the site.

“The proposal would in its totality result in a negative impact on the unique character and visual amenity of the city centre area,” planners said.

They added that the scheme would be larger than what would normally be acceptable on such a sized site, and an exception could not be considered “as the proposal is of such poor architectural quality”.

The hotel is within the Galway City Zone of Archaeological Potential, and no information was submitted on the development’s potential impact on this.

The Council added that Mr Byrne failed to submit any information with regard to traffic and pedestrian safety, and in the absence of this, it was not possible to ensure a hazard would not result.

It was also pointed out that the development does not comply with fire safety regulations with regards to means of escape, access for firefighting and ventilation, therefore giving rise to concerns of public health and safety.

According to Mr Byrne – who also operates the Salthill Hotel and Eyre Square Hotel – the development would have represented an investment of around €10.7 million and had the potential to create more than 100 full and part-time jobs.


Mercedes on track to fulfil promise to drive down fuel figures




The Mercedes Benz CLA Shooting Brake.

This week’s test car has become this month’s test car because most car distributors have shut up shop as per Government orders and I’m left with the Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake until everything is up and running again.

For this I’m extremely grateful to Motor Distributors Ltd (MDL) – Mercedes distributors in Ireland – for allowing me to hold on to this eye-catching car.

Those with an eye for style will understand why Mercedes-Benz has produced the CLA Shooting Brake. Those with a practical persuasion might ridicule it, but a closer look might just challenge that position.

You see, some of the dimensions give a lie to any thoughts of this car being too sleek and too low to be a proper estate. It actually has more space in the boot than their own C-Class estate, and more headroom than the C-Class coupe.

As for the car itself, apart from the ultra-stylish, sleek exterior and the classy interior, this car, like many other cars in the Mercedes brochure, has one outstanding highlight: astonishing fuel consumption.

About six years ago, Mercedes bosses told us that they were on a mission to drive down fuel figures and to clean up their diesel engines beyond anything that was around back then. Right now, they are well into that target and this car is testament to that.

So far I have travelled around 500 kilometres, with 680 kilometres still left in the tank. My current rate of consumption is reading at 4.3L/100km which has been achieved without breaking any limits and driving, for the most part, in ECO or Comfort mode.

CO2 emissions are calculated at 108g/km which gives you an annual road tax bill of €190. These are impressive figures and imply that diesel can still have a significant role to play in the future of motoring.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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New Covid-19 assessment clinic at Merlin Park

Enda Cunningham



The HSE is opening a new assessment clinic at Merlin Park Hospital this week for Covid-19 patients who are showing mild symptoms.

The Community Assessment Hub is for patients who are confirmed Covid-19 positive and who require face-to-face clinical assessment.

Appointments for the seven day service (8am-8pm) are through GP referral only and walk-ins are not permitted.

A HSE spokesperson said the idea behind the hub is to keep mildly symptomatic patients away from the acute hospital system.

“The aim of the hubs is to divert mildly symptomatic patients who require medical assessment away from the acute hospital system by providing a facility in the community where patients can be seen, and clinically assessed by a team of nurses, doctors and physiotherapists,” the spokesperson said.

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Redundancies are not on the cards for Galway City Council workers

Dara Bradley



Redundancies at Galway City Council as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic have been ruled out by Chief Executive Brendan McGrath.

The local authority has imposed a temporary ban on recruitment, but is not planning to lay off any of its 520-strong workforce.

Mr McGrath said that down the road, if this crisis continues for a prolonged period, replacing staff who retire may not be possible. But for now, Council workers are ‘flat out’ maintaining essential services across a range of departments.

“No, we’re not planning that (lay offs). We will endeavour to keep our workforce fully employed. We’ve built up our team since the recession, a lot of our team and the additional bodies we’ve taken on are related to specific projects, for which there was various forms of grant aid available so I think we’d be confident that we will try to be able to retain the entire staff resource,” he said.

Nearly 150 members of staff have been set up to work from home, thanks to the ICT Department at City Hall.

Outdoor staff, and other office staff who must be at City Hall, are observing social distancing guidelines. Offices that used to be packed with people now have one or two workers, spaced in accordance with the guidelines.

As with the private sector, there have been changes to the ‘normal’ working week for Council staff, and some have been redeployed to other areas.

The Council has a statutory obligation to maintain essential services.

“Essential services are anything to do with homelessness; urgent housing repairs like plumbing and electrical; work on houses that were nearly complete to bring back into beneficial use and to bring back into use for self-isolation; public lighting is essential; burst water mains; maintaining traffic lights for road safety; and anything to do with water supply and waste water and treating effluent,” said Mr McGrath.

Street cleaning is classed as ‘necessary but not absolutely essential’, and is a slightly lower category than ‘essential services’.

The rota for street cleaning has been cut back to a number of times a week rather than every day, and this reflects the quieter streets due to people staying at home.

The city’s burial grounds are closed, but graves still need to be opened, and the Planning Department continues to operate.

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