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Frustration boils over as Galway City housing plans keep getting knocked back


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Frustration boils over as Galway City housing plans keep getting knocked back Frustration boils over as Galway City housing plans keep getting knocked back

From the Galway City Tribune – Three Government ministers are to be invited to talks with Galway City Council to work out how to develop more housing after two major schemes were rejected by An Bord Pleanála despite years of hard work by the planning department.

Galway City Councillors voiced their abject frustration over the failure to secure 165 homes for various reasons for local authority tenants.

Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said the refusals impacted on the Council’s housing targets for the next three years up to 2025 and on the land the local authority was trying to acquire into the future to build social and affordable housing.

Planning permission or the construction of 71 social housing units at Keeraun on the Ballymoneen Road in Galway (pictured) was rejected by An Bord Pleanála last month.

The board considered the development to be piecemeal, with inadequate provision of social and physical infrastructure and excessively car-dependent.

The Council had spent over €10 million to purchase the site. The development included eight Traveller-specific accommodation units which were to be used to rehouse those living in the Cúl Trá site in Salthill owned by the Catholic Diocese for which the lease has expired.

They also rejected a social housing scheme in Castlegar on the Headford Road to build three Traveller-appropriate houses and 21 apartments on a 2.2-acre field north of a van hire business, citing the lack of pedestrian, cycle and bus connections.

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Mr McGrath said the most frustrating aspect of the Keeraun development was that it had been with the board for a year and a half as it was not subject to statutory timelines. It had taken three and a half years of work to prepare the application. Three business cases were required before it was submitted.

“Yes, the Ballymoneen Road needs upgrading. The bus network in the city is being developed on the basis of planned development… the project on the Headford Road – which is a 20-minute walk from Eyre Square – was rejected because it was not served by a bus.

“Both projects were to meet the urgent and crying need of the Traveller community. I’m deeply concerned over the refusals.”

He had drafted a letter to the Department of Housing and the Galway Housing Taskforce outlining his concerns about the Council’s inability to meet housing targets.

A third development of 58 social housing units in Ballybane was also way behind schedule after the Council dismissed the original contractor over the slow pace of work.

Mr McGrath said he believed the Garraí Beag scheme which began in early 2020 was only 20 per cent completed; it had been due to be finished in October 2021.

A new tender would be awarded for a second contractor to finish the work, but this was a difficult process as the work already done had to be assessed. There was also court action in relation to the scheme.

“We’re now waiting to get a contractor in to finish the scheme,” he stated.

In a further blow to those languishing on the social housing list, it was revealed that a housing scheme in Knocknacarra due to be purchased by the housing body Respond and earmarked for Council tenants was off the shelf after the developer decided to sell the twelve units privately.

Director of Services, Brian Barrett, said the tenants had been given pre-tenancy training, but no contracts had yet been signed.

Mayor Clodagh Higgins said councillors were all demoralised by the housing decisions.

“We’ve zoned land and can’t get housing on it. Someone has to listen to the nonsense taking place…can we revisit housing height if we can’t get housing granted outside the city centre?”

She tabled a motion calling for an “urgent meeting” to take place between Galway City Council and the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien, the Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan, and Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Kieran O’Donnell to address the crisis.

Independent Councillor Donal Lyons said the ABP decisions indicated that housing would only be granted beside other developments already serviced.

Cllr Niall McNelis (Lab) said he knew of families who had given notice on their tenancies after being offered a home in the Respond development.

Housing targets were already 140 units behind last year and almost all that came on stream were delivered by private bodies such as Clúid or Respond, Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) pointed out.

Cllr Michael Crowe (FF) described ABP’s decision for the Headford Road development as “one of the most ridiculous” planning decisions he had read in his 20 years on the Council.

“It’s typical of the nonsense that’s going on in the world. It’s discrimination against private cars,” he fumed.

Cllr Colette Connolly (Ind) said the board’s decisions underlined years of little investment in public transport and footpaths.

“They raise very, very significant issues,” she stressed. “I welcome the decisions on the basis we have to have sustainable development.”

Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind) said it was a cop out to blame ABP instead of the local authority focusing on its failure to deliver essential facilities for housing development.

Greens Cllr Martina O’Connor said the Council owned 627 pieces of land in the city.

“With this one sweeping brush, we’re told we can’t develop them.”

A total of 243 properties had been allocated to new tenants last year, Mr Barrett revealed. That made a very small dent in the social housing waiting list, which has almost 4,500 names.

The Mayor’s motion was carried unanimously.

(Image: the Keeraun development on the Ballymoneen Road which was refused permission by An Bord Pleanála).

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