Galway City Council has turned down scaled-back plans for a 10-storey hotel at Galway Docks, branding it “excessive”.
Last September, Summix BNM Developments lodged a planning application with the Council for a three-storey to eleven-storey hotel (with a rooftop bar and function area) on site of the former Bord na Mona coal yard at the Docks.
The plans also included a restaurant, coffee bar and terraces.
However, the Council sent the company back to the drawing board and told it to revisit the overall scale, height, massing and intensity of the development, but said that the architectural quality of the proposed building is of a good standard.
Planners said there would be a “resultant overbearing expression” onto the Forthill Cemetery and the Long Walk ACA (Architectural Conservation Area). They sought a detailed assessment of the visual impacts on the graveyard.
The Council said that with a height of 38m and length of 70m-90m facing Bóthar na Long and Forthill Cemetery, the building “is not considered to assimilate well; lacks integration with the existing urban form; fails to achieve the visions and aspirations of the Galway City Development Plan . . . detracting from the character and setting of the area”.
The developers came back with scaled-back plans – they reduced the scheme to a maximum of 10 storeys (a height reduction of three metres) and the number of bedrooms reduced from 186 to 174 on the 0.55-acre site.
In its decision to refuse planning permission, the Council said the excessive density, scale and height on a very constrained site would represent overdevelopment of the site and would have a detrimental impact on the character and setting of Forthill Cemetery.
“The development does not adhere to the principles of good urban design set out in the Galway City Development Plan and in this regard, it is considered to lack the capacity for integration with the existing urban form, contribute positively to street enclosure and fails to sympathetically assimilate with Galway’s townscape,” the decision reads.
A submission from the Harbour Hotel – located opposite the site – welcomed the redevelopment of the vacant site but said the build and massing of the building would create “a visually dominant feature on this prominent corner location which will have an overbearing impact on the street scene and Forthill Cemetery”.
It added that the height would have a detrimental impact on the existing built and natural heritage of the area.
The submission also noted there were no carparking spaces provided in the plans, and there is a shortage of spaces in the city centre.
The Harbour Hotel submission claimed that the additional bedrooms would result in an overconcentration of tourism accommodation and an “excessively transient” population in the vicinity of the site.
City Council Heritage Officer, Dr Jim Higgins, said in his view the site should not be developed as the possibility of fort-related archaeology being present there is high.
He said that in the 1960s, a well was found on the CIE side of the site, close to the boundary wall.
According to the planning application, demand for hotel rooms in Galway will exceed “pre-Covid” levels by 2023.
“Provision of hotel accommodation at this location will enhance overall visitor experience on offer in the city, with convenient access to a broad range of attractions, as well as present a major new opportunity to capture a proportion of the spend generated by visitors to the area in a part of Galway City that has been in decline for many years,” the application reads.
Summix – which is headed by British technology entrepreneurs Shukri Shammas and Tareq Naqib – has already partnered with Galway developer Gerry Barrett on the approved plans for 360 student bed spaces on a site at Queen Street, behind Bonham Quay.
They have also partnered on the recently-approved €320m regeneration proposal at Ceannt Station called ‘Augustine Hill’, which includes homes, a new shopping precinct with four public squares, a multiplex cinema and eleven streets linking the city centre with the Docks and Lough Atalia.
Image: An architect’s impression of the hotel (with red facade) alongside the Bonham Quay development
Zoning for houses ‘could impact Galway City Ring Road plan’
Councillors have voted to rezone farming land in Rahoon to allow for houses to be developed, against the advice of planners who warned it could impact on the planned Galway City Ring Road.
The Office of Planning Regulator and Chief Executive of Galway City Council both advised elected members not to change the zoning use from agricultural to residential on the 2.842-hectare (7-acre) site. But it was passed with 14 in favour, three against and one absent.
Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind), who proposed the motion, said there was a need for more land to be zoned residential to facilitate the growth in population of 40,000 over the next 18 years. Cllr Noel Larkin seconded his proposal.
Brendan McGrath, the Chief Executive, said there was “no requirement to rezone additional land for residential purposes to meet the needs of the targeted population increase up to 2029”.
He said there was sufficient zoned land available to enable development.
The OPR said voting to change the zoning represented a piecemeal approach to planning and was inconsistent with national and regional policy.
“It is also considered that the proposed rezoning could prejudice the strategic future optimal use of these lands in the longer term. With regard to impact on the objective for the N6 Galway City Ring Road Scheme (GCRR), all development has to take cognisance of the objective for the N6 GCRR.
“It is also noted that the draft plan includes that the objective for the N6 GCRR has priority over all land use zoning objectives which is considered to provide sufficient protection to safeguard the scheme objective,” Mr McGrath said.
The National Transport Authority said this rezoning should not be allowed as it is likely to lead to development that was “wholly car-dependent and contrary to national and regional objectives”.
Cash-strapped students targeted by drug dealers, policing meeting hears
Cash-strapped students in Galway are being targeted by drug lords to act as money mules, a city councillor has warned.
Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) made the remarks at a public meeting of the City Joint Policing Committee (JPC) and said that the €667,000 worth of drugs seized by city gardaí in the first 10 months of the year “is only the tip of the iceberg”.
The meeting at the Connacht Hotel heard that some €45 million passed through the accounts of so-called money mules nationwide this year alone.
Cllr Cheevers said drug dealers were targeting young people in particular.
“They’re in the 18 to 24-year-old age bracket and college students are being targeted,” said Cllr Cheevers.
It was revealed that cocaine was by far the most common drug seized in Galway, making up over half of all the drugs detected – cocaine valued at €348,000 was seized in the 10 months to the end of October.
This was closely followed by cannabis, of which €260,000 worth was taken off the streets by gardaí, while the remainder of the total was made up by heroin, ecstasy and other illegal drugs.
Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche said the drugs problem was “unquantifiable” and promised that city gardaí were “attacking money laundering in a targeted and systematic way”.
Drugs were not only an urban problem but were a huge issue in county towns as well, he said, and all gardaí, from uniformed to armed response, were focused on the issue.
“Roads policing are taking a targeted role in tackling it as well,” said Chief Supt Roche.
“A new strategy is starting tomorrow,” he said at the meeting..
“Getting involved in being a money mule is a personal choice. We can warn and caution people against it.
“We can say so much but people continue to do things that are illegal,” he added.
‘Furore’ over rezoning plan for access to B&B on Headford Road in Galway
From the Galway City Tribune – Councillors have voted to rezone a small section of Terryland Forest Park from recreational and amenity use to residential.
A majority of elected members also approved the insertion of a specific objective into the new Galway City Development Plan 2023-29 that would allow an entrance to the site through Sandyvale Lawn.
This was to facilitate safe access to a home and B&B business off Headford Road, which had become dangerous due to the recent changeover of Kirwan roundabout to a traffic lights junction.
Residents of Sandyvale Lawn, a 100+ housing estate off Headford Road, had objected to the proposals, and so too had Tuatha Terryland Forest Park, an alliance of volunteers and organisations.
The Office of Planning Regulator (OPR) and Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, as well as his planning department and recreational and amenity department, had all objected to the changes.
The rezoning, and insertion of a specific objective to facilitate an entrance to the estate, was contained in the same material alteration that came before councillors, but they were obliged to vote on them separately.
Several councillors argued that a new entrance to Sandyvale Lawn was necessary to facilitate safe access to a B&B on Headford Road.
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Cllr Mike Crowe (FF) said the family who owned this business and home had been treated poorly by the City Council during the reconfiguration of the Kirwan roundabout to a signalised junction.
Referencing the large opposition to the proposal, he said the “furore over this is astounding” and argued the impact on green space and the Sandyvale Lawn estate would be minimal.
Cllr Crowe said the proposal was about creating a safe exit and entrance.
Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said there had been a number of near misses of cars coming in and out of the B&B, which were captured on video.
He said the current system, whereby an amber traffic light allows access to the B&B was “haphazard and dangerous”. He feared there would be a fatality if a new entrance was not approved.
“I don’t like to rezone RA [Recreational & Amenity] land but in this situation we don’t have a choice. We have to remedy a dangerous situation,” Cllr Fahy said.
Cllr Colette Connolly (Ind) said RA land was “absolutely sacrosanct” and she would not vote to rezone.
She asked what the legal position was regarding a rezoning of green space, which residents claimed had been paid for through a green levy applied 40 years ago when the estate was built.
Cllr Owen Hanley (Soc Dem) said he had voted initially to include the material alteration to support the B&B owners, as the removal of the roundabout had made access more dangerous for them.
But he said he would now support the residents of Sandyvale Lawn who had opposed the change.
Cllr Declan McDonnell said the family had lived there for 50 years and now it was more dangerous accessing their home through no fault of their own.
He said it was not safe that they have to enter and exit their home on an amber flashing light.
In a submission, residents of Sandyvale Lawn said the new entrance would negatively impact their estate, by increasing traffic, noise and an addition risk to children playing. They said it could be turned into another rat run like Ballinfoile and Tirellan. They also argued against the loss of green space.
Submissions also objected to the loss of the green space which was part of Terryland Forest Park, dubbed the ‘lungs of the city’.
Mr McGrath asked councillors not to rezone the land and not to insert the specific objective for a new entrance.
Both changes, however, were approved. The RA to R rezoning passed by a 12-5 vote and the specific objective for a new entrance passed by 11-5.