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Connacht Tribune

Former hotel set for new chapter as nursing home

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Plans to demolish the derelict Cloonabinnia House Hotel in Moycullen, to make way for a nursing home with more than 90 bedrooms, have been lodged with Galway County Council.

Owners Peter and Bernadette Moran have sought permission to demolish the former hotel and asylum-seeker hostel on the 3.1-acre site near Ross Lake, which closed down in 2008.

The plans involve the construction of a two-storey nursing home with 91 bedrooms, parking for 51 cars, restoration and renovation of three fire-damaged apartments as staff accommodation.

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has expressed concerns about bats on the site and the need to protect them and told the local authority that a bat derogation licence must be in place before any work takes place, if permission is granted by the Council.

According to the planning application: “This building was erected in the 1970s and is of a generally poor standard of construction and neither does it have the facilities to provide modern hotel facilities such as swimming pool, leisure centre, etc. It ceased to operated as a hotel in 2005 and has had a varied history:
■ guesthouse/hotel until 1985
■ nursing home 1984-1988
■ hotel 1989-2005
■ hostel for asylum seekers 2005-08

“There are also three dwelling units on the site. These were burnt in recent years and it is proposed to restore them as staff accommodation. These units will be retained in the same ownership as the nursing home.

“The building has now been standing vacant for many years. There is, in the current market, no realistic prospect of the hotel re-opening because of its poor quality and inadequate facilities which are not of a standard that is expected today.

“In addition, the recent spate of hotel construction under government tax incentive schemes has led to a surplus of hotel capacity,” the application reads.

The plans include a medical centre, specialist short-term convalescent accommodation of 30 beds, an oratory, library, social rooms, internal and external leisure areas and restaurant.

A bat survey found the main hotel is a roosting site during winter and summer for six bat species, including the protected ‘lesser horseshoe bat’ species, and the woodland and lakeshore were identified as important foraging areas for the bats.

According to a Natura Impact Statement submitted with the application: “Robust and effective mitigation measures have been proposed during the construction and operational stages of the project for the avoidance of impacts to Lough Hoe Bog SAC (Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive) and the River Moy SAC.

“The implementation of best practice and construction design measures and site-specific mitigation, in particular those mitigation and design measures outlined for all bat species, will avoid potential impacts to lesser horseshow bat.

“The proposed drainage and wastewater treatment processes will ensure that potential impacts to the receiving environment will not receive untreated wastewater,” the impact statement reads.

A submission – signed by 20 local residents – called on the County Council to ensure the development is not inappropriate given the remote location “distant from services in the local towns and villages” and that it would not increase the risk of an accident on the narrow country road which serves it.

Locals also had concerns that it could negatively impact on the Special Area of Conservation, and whether there would be sufficient capacity in the water supply system.

A submission from the operator of the Teaghlach Uilinn nursing home in Moycullen noted that their 77-bed nursing home has been “well below capacity” over the last number of years.

“There has been a decline in residents over a period which we believe to be attributable to having more than an adequate supply of beds in the vicinity and also the increased prevalence of homecare services.”

The submission also points out that Mowlam Healthcare operate a 54-bed nursing home in Moycullen, and a third would render one of the three nursing homes economically unviable in the short-term.

“Whilst the narrative is that the country is short of nursing home beds, this is true based on the CSO statistics, but this only applies to large urban areas and specific rural locations. Moycullen currently has a nursing home capacity that is thirteen times the national average.

Mowlam Healthcare objected to the Council on the grounds that the development is located on the shoreline of Ross Lake and to allow it to proceed “would represent a complete disregard for this water resource” and pointing out the local authority has a duty to preserve the character of the local landscape.

Connacht Tribune

Thousands on waiting list for student accommodation in Galway

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The student housing crisis is ‘the worst it’s ever been’ – with thousands on waiting lists for rooms; hundreds relying on hostels and friends’ sofas; and countless more facing deferral or dropping out altogether.

The President of NUI Galway’s Students’ Union, Róisín Nic Lochlainn, told the Connacht Tribune that students had been left in a desperate situation, as she called for mass protests to have the issue addressed.

According to Ms Nic Lochlainn, 3,000 students were currently on the waiting lists for NUIG’s on-campus accommodation – Corrib Village and Goldcrest Village – with around 500 in line for any bed that might come up in the Westwood.

“Gort na Coiribe and Dunaras have told us their waiting lists are well into the hundreds too. I’ve only got to contact two of the hostels around town, but Kinlay and Snoozles have almost 200 students between them already – and they’re expecting more.

“The first years haven’t even arrived yet, and on top of all that, you have people in B&Bs and staying on their friends’ sofas,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn.

Pressure on the student rental market had been building for years, she said, but it had gone off the cliff edge this year as a perfect storm was created by increased student numbers and reduced bed availability.

“[Minister for Further and Higher Education] Simon Harris created new places on courses this year and talked about maximum access to education . . . I’m not sure how that works for students who are homeless.

“Because there weren’t many students around last year, some private landlords might have moved on. There was no new purpose-built accommodation delivered, and then Simon Harris creates new places with no new beds,” said Ms Nic Lochlainn of the causes of this year’s problems.”

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Government asked to “do everything” to ensure Intel chooses Oranmore as base

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The Taoiseach and Tánaiste will be asked to do “everything in their power” to ensure technology giant Intel selects Oranmore as the location for its new microchip manufacturing plant – which could create 10,000 jobs and transform the West of Ireland economy.

The 540-acre site is owned by the Defence Forces and was selected by IDA Ireland as the preferred site for the company’s new EU ‘chip’ base.

BY STEPHEN CORRIGAN
AND DARA BRADLEY

Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany and Intel confirmed to Taoiseach Micheál Martin that the site is under consideration.

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon said the development would be “transformative” and would be Intel’s largest microchip manufacturing plant in the world.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Athenry Oranmore Municipal District this week, councillors backed a proposal from Cllr Liam Carroll to write to Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar to urge them to push forward the plan.

“This would be a game-changer, not just for Oranmore but for the whole of Connacht. Imagine 10,000 directly employed at some stage in the future, and the spinoff from that,” he said.

The Oranmore site is reported to have been selected ahead of three other locations in Ireland.

It is on Intel’s short-list for the proposed project, which would involve building eight factory modules on a single campus at the site off the M6 motorway, northeast of Oranmore, the newspaper reported.

The American multinational tech company has whittled down its short-list to 10 finalists; Oranmore is up against sites in Poland, France and Germany.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that if it proceeds, the new Oranmore ‘mega-fab’ would dwarf Intel’s existing site in Leixlip, which employs almost 5,000.

Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon (FG) said: “It would put Galway on the map internationally as a place for high-tech investment and it would serve to rebalance the economic imbalance that exists in our country where all of the weight is on the east coast.

“The IDA has a formula where every one new job created in that industry creates about eight or nine more jobs downstream in terms of the supply chain and services. They’re saying 10,000 jobs on site – twice the population of Athenry – on one campus and then another 80-90,000 jobs off site. The figures are phenomenal, mind boggling,” said Deputy Cannon.

The demand for the facility arose during Covid-19 when the supply chain between Asia and Europe broke down.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Connacht Tribune

Fraudsters ‘spoof’ Galway Garda Station’s phone number

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Fraudsters replicated the phone number of Galway Garda Station and used it to call a local woman to demand money.

Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Michael Walsh, said that the number ‘091 538000’ was somehow used by criminals who attempted to extract money – in the form of the online currency Bitcoin – from the victim.   Despite the phone call appearing to come from the Garda station at Mill Street, the woman became suspicious and reported it to Gardaí.

Sgt Walsh said it was the latest in a series of ‘spoofing’ phone calls to have occurred this year.

Spoofing is where fraudsters change the caller ID to ring unsuspecting members of the public to try to extract money or personal information off them.

He said that the number of spoofing incidents reported to Galway Gardaí has more than doubled in the past year.

“It is top of my agenda,” he said.

He pointed out that criminals can obtain a ‘ready to go’ phone and SIM card, relatively cheaply, and it was “very difficult” for Gardaí to trace the caller.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and more details on fraud figures in Galway, see this week’s Connacht Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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