Building their dream home turned into something of a nightmare for a Galway couple when they went to connect to the public water supply.
They’ve been hit with bills totalling more than €7,000 for connecting to the water pipe running directly past the site of their new house — a distance of less than a metre.
The blame for the huge cost has been placed firmly at the door of Irish Water by Independent TD Noel Grealish.
When Willie and Alma Shaw applied to Irish Water for permission to connect their new home under construction at Curragrean, on the coast road from Galway City to Oranmore, to the public supply, they received an offer letter putting the “total connection charge” at €3,199.
But then they were shocked to be told by Galway City Council that they would have to pay various other charges and bonds that more than doubled the cost, shooting it up to €7,149.
“When I contacted the City Council at the start, I was told I would have to make the application to Irish Water and there was no mention whatsoever of any additional charges,” said Willie Shaw.
“So when I got the offer letter from Irish Water, it clearly stated that the total connection charge — and they used that term in print — was €3,199, and naturally we assumed that was all we would have to pay.
“But when we got back onto the City Council, which manages the connection on behalf of Irish Water, we were referred to a link on their web page that outlines a whole series of extra charges.
“I have to pay €250 for a road opening licence, €200 towards long term damage to the road, a €2,000 bond charge also to cover possible damage to the road that may or may not be refunded in two years’ time.
“Then I also have to hire a specialist contractor, who has to have a traffic management plan, a traffic management method statement and risk assessment, public liability insurance etc, which will cost another €1,500.
“All this just to dig a small hole at my gate to expose the water main – which is on the hard shoulder, not even on the road,” added Willie.
Mr Shaw said that after all that, it was highly likely that the road would be dug up again in the not too distant future to replace the asbestos pipe currently carrying the public supply.
And he claimed that if his house was a few hundred yards further out the road, past the city boundary, the whole connection would cost roughly €1,800 as Galway County Council operated a different set of charges.
Galway West Independent TD Noel Grealish said that the blame for the shockingly high charge laid with Irish Water. He said that prior to the establishment of Irish Water, for people building a one-off house in the city or county, the cost to connect to the water main was around €3,000, all of which went to the local authority.
“Now that charge has transferred over to Irish Water, but that means that the local authority are down more than €3,000 per house.
“So now what the local authority are doing, they are imposing charges like €400 for a person to come out and look at you while you have the hole dug, they want €250 for a road opening licence, €200 for damage to the road, then €2,000 for a restoration of the road opening which may or may not be refunded. Then you have to get an established contractor who has to dig the hole, all adding up to well over €7,000 to connect to the main.
“I said in the Dáil that Irish Water were going to get their money back some way, and I’ve been proven right,” added Deputy Grealish.
Willie and Alma Shaw and their 16-year-old daughter Nicole last year sold the home in Kilcolgan where they had lived for 15 years. They hope to move into their new home at Curragrean before Christmas.
“If I had any inkling that the water connection would cost me this much, I would have definitely sunk a well — that would have cost about €3,500, and no more water charges for life.
“It’s only too late because we are moving in before Christmas, if it wasn’t too late I would definitely go after that option because of all this nonsense,” said Mr Shaw.
“A really good comparison is the ESB, who are charging €1,800 in total, while an Internet connection from Vodafone, including a pole, is free —I just have to sign an 18-month contract at €40 a month. That’s a stark contrast,” he added.
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.