The €30 million allocated to Galway County Council and €28 million to Galway City Council to build 608 houses in the county and 518 houses in the city by 2017 is a start – but nowhere near enough to solve the crisis.
That’s what Fine Gael Deputy Sean Kyne told the Dáil, when he said: “It is a welcome allocation but more is needed.”
BY TIM RYAN
Speaking during a debate on a new Urban Regeneration Bill, Deputy Kyne said one of the signs of the economy recovery is its impact on housing.
A few years ago, in 2010 and 2011, many people thought we would never have to build housing again because we had an over-supply nationwide, he pointed out.
But he added: “Now, however, we do not have enough housing units. And added to the complexity is the regional imbalance.
“We continue to have an oversupply of houses in certain parts of the country, including ghost estates, while in other areas there is little demand. In Galway, like other cities, in the last decade there was never an over-supply of housing.”
Deputy Kyne said another major factor in the housing shortage in Dublin was the absence of a realistic regional development plan.
“For several decades successive Governments have not afforded proper attention to balanced regional development,” he said.
“We now have a situation where one in three people live in the greater Dublin area. One in two or 50% of the population live in Leinster.
“This is not sustainable or in the best interests of the country at large. Unbalanced growth can have negative effects on these areas, as well as negative impacts on living standards.
“However, there are other areas, whether in the west, north-west, south-west or midlands, where there is capacity to expand substantially, enhance existing communities and provide for a better quality of life for people in these areas,” he said.
“While certain people will make remarks about certain parts of the west and may want to turn them into theme parks or a giant national park, it is important that we have continued regional development, with clear actions and clear points of responsibility to achieve this end.”
Speaking during the same debate, Fianna Fáil Deputy Eamon Ó Cúiv said when he was a member of Galway County Council back in 1997, one of the last things he did was argue that they needed to zone enough land around Oranmore to ensure a small number of property owners did not have inordinate control over the land supply.
“On the other hand, I was worried that if we zoned a reasonably significant amount of land, we would get a building explosion that would cause huge social difficulties around Oranmore,” he said.
“I suggested at the time, and lots of people threw cold water on it, that we should zone adequate land but we should put a codicil in the planning development plan providing that only a fixed number of houses could be built every year. This was something we introduced subsequently into county plans in Galway.
“That way one did not get caught with this tight parcel of land where the owner could say it was his land or no land.
“On the other hand, a huge amount of land was not zoned such that one would get a huge explosion of planning applications and lose control over the amount of houses provided.
“This time we need to ensure in our planning mechanisms that the number of houses we provide for meets the expected demand.”
Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site
An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.
The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.
It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.
In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.
“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.
A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.
A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.
It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.
Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.
The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.
NUIG student accommodation firm records loss
The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.
However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.
Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.
The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.
Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.
The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.
Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.
Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.
The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).
The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.
It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.
As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.
It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.
In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.
Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan
Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.
Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.
The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.
It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.
Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.
Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.
“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”
The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.
He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.
“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.
“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.
“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.