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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council brands new PorterShed design “monotonous”

Enda Cunningham

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Main image: the PorterShed proposal for the Connacht Tribune building, which Galway City Council has ordered to be redesigned.

Plans for the development of a technology ‘hub’ on Market Street have stalled after Galway City Council said the design of the building is “monotonous” and of insufficient quality for such a prominent location.

And the Department of Culture and Heritage has ordered that a programme of archaeological excavations must be carried out on the site, which currently houses the Connacht Tribune offices.

Last April, the company behind the PorterShed business incubation hub near Ceannt Station sought permission for the redevelopment of the Tribune building, including the addition of a lightweight floor over the existing two-storey building and a small extension to cater for a lift and stair core. The plans also involved will be a roof garden/decked area overhead.

There would be a partial demolition of a two-storey element to the side and rear of the building, which would be replaced by a new enlarged area over four floors. In total, it would create office space for around 220 people.

The Connacht Tribune building on Market Street. The company, which also publishes the Galway City Tribune, is moving to offices in Liosbán Business Park later this summer.

However, the City Council last week wrote to PorterShed, acknowledging that while the proposal was acceptable in principle, they wanted a redesign.

“Whilst noting that the existing building is of poor architectural quality, it is considered that the design/visual appearance of the proposed building does not provide the most suitable design resolution for such a prominent urban site, which is located within a sensitive historic environment, being located within the Galway City Core Architectural Conservation Area and in close proximity to the historic St Nicholas Church.

“Whilst it is acknowledged that the refurbishment/extension of the existing building is challenged in terms of meeting the needs of modern office accommodation, it is considered that the architectural quality of the building is not of a sufficient standard for such a prominent and sensitive site.

“It is considered that [the proposal] does no integrate appropriately with the existing streetscape, nor does it provide a positive contribution to the visual integrity of the area.

“This is largely due to the uniform, monotonous design of the building, which incorporates a palette of inappropriate external materials, such as steel cladding, brick cladding and render,” the Council said.

PorterShed must also hire an archaeologist to carry out a programme of excavations at locations on the site in consultation with the National Monuments Service. A written report must then be submitted to the Department of Culture and Heritage.

In a submission to the Council, the Bowling Green Residents’ Committee said that while it was informed by PorterShed earlier this year of the plans to redevelop the Tribune building, it was not aware of the plan to build another storey with a roof garden.

The residents said that while they do not object to the plans for the building, they want strict conditions enforced on any events which take place in the roof garden.

The Council acknowledged these concerns and asked PorterShed to comment on the matter.

“In the event the roof gardens are to be retained, a management plan shall be submitted, outlining the exact nature of use/operation of the roof garden, along with operating times,” the Council said.

The local authority noted that there will be a loss of parking spaces on the site and advised the applicant to address this issue, as a contribution to transportation infrastructure costs will be required.

Finally, the Council said the proposed signage is unacceptable and would have a negative impact on the streetscape, and asked that an alternative design should include bilingual signage.

The Connacht Tribune – which publishes the Galway City Tribune – sold the building on Market Street in 2018 and will be moving to new offices in Liosbán Business Park later this summer.

Meanwhile, a separate PorterShed planning application to redevelop a warehouse adjacent to Market Street carpark – creating 130 co-working desk spaces – has run into similar difficulties.

The Council has sought a redesign of the plans as the proposal “does not integrate with the fabric of the existing urban environment . . . largely due to a mix of inappropriate external materials”.

Test excavations must also be carried out at this site by a qualified archaeologist and the same concerns were raised about signage.

The warehouse building on Market Street which forms part of a second PorterShed proposal.

“Pedestrian access through the commercial carpark places pedestrians at risk,” the Council said, asking for the proposal to be revised.

The local authority has also asked the applicant to address the fact that cycle parking spaces are unsheltered under the existing proposals.

The proposal involves a change of use of the 1950s two-storey warehouse and a new two-storey extension with modern design – it will house desk space for 130 people.

The Bowling Green residents, in a separate submission to the Council, said they welcomed the application because the site had been left in an unsightly and neglected state for many years.

However, they asked that a bin storage be brought within a gated area to avoid it becoming a “probable focus for antisocial behaviour”.

The Council agreed and has sought for this to be addressed also. PorterShed now has until the middle of January to submit the revised proposals or the applications will be deemed to be withdrawn.

Planning permission already exists on the site of the former Tribune printworks for a 10,500 square foot indoor artisan food market with around 30 food stalls, as well as beer and wine vendors, similar to the Milk Market in Limerick and the English Market in Cork. The developer intends to proceed with this in tandem with the PorterShed plan.

(Main image: the PorterShed proposal for the Connacht Tribune building, which Galway City Council has ordered to be redesigned).

CITY TRIBUNE

Salthill funfair enjoying busy tourist season

Denise McNamara

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The operators of Curry’s Funpark in Salthill are reporting a busy tourist season, despite a delayed opening and ongoing Covid-19 restrictions.

While it is nowhere near the busiest season since the amusement company took over the fun fair site in Leisureland in 2014, they are delighted at how the shorter season has been going under difficult circumstances.

With a separate entrance and exit in place and customers expected to queue apart from each other, numbers have been reduced in the park. But opening hours have extended from 11am to 11pm to allow the public to avail of longer hours to enjoy the rides, explains owner Owen Curry.

“There’s a good turnout of people and a great response from our customers at being open. This year adults in their 20s are really coming in the late evenings, whereas before we would have been quiet in those last few hours.

“There’s nothing like getting out in a bit of fresh air and do something together. Without a doubt there are a lot more Irish people this year and an awful lot of them are people who haven’t ever been to Salthill which is surprising.”

After initially bringing in the equipment in February to prepare for a St Patrick’s Day opening, at one stage it looked like it would all have to be removed when lockdown was introduced, with Owen running the business from his home in Derry.

Were it not for the great support he got from the business group The Village Salthill, the park may never have opened on July 1, he says.

The opening happened after a two-day inspection, all staff undergoing courses and a lot of work implementing all the guidelines set out in a 90-page document for the operation of amusement parks.

“All our other events have been cancelled – we’d normally have equipment travelling around the country to festivals and events. We were delighted with the support and help from other businesses in Salthill. They helped with advertising and getting the word out there.”

While the park is weather dependent, he enthuses that Salthill is at least blessed to have Leisureland, the Aquarium and plenty of cafes and restaurants alongside the famous beaches and Prom.

“The staycation is definitely working for Salthill – despite the weather,” Owen remarks.

Still lit in the signature Big Wheel is the blue heart in honour of those working at the frontline during the pandemic.

“It was originally meant to be a digital screen for advertising and when we couldn’t open we decided to light a blue heart as a thank you to the front line workers until the Covid finished – we didn’t think it would be still be there but that’s the world we’re in.”

The funpark’s season is likely be extended into the Autumn.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway Pride Festival makes the move online

Denise McNamara

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The Pride Parade in Galway last year.

For the first time in its three decades of breaking taboos, Galway Pride will not be holding a parade.

Instead, organisers have switched to a full schedule of almost exclusively online events.

There will be just three events out of more than two dozen where people can gather for Galway Pride week, which begins today (Monday).

There will be the traditional flag-raising event in Eyre Square at midday to mark the launch with a number of speakers and those attending will be asked to social distance and wear masks.

On Wednesday evening, they will host the annual vigil in Eyre Square, while on Sunday morning, a new event will see the community on their bikes for a coffee and cake session in collaboration with the Galway Cycling Campaign.

Last year for the festival’s 30th anniversary, an estimated 2,000 people marched through the city in the parade – a cornerstone of the celebration – with thousands more lining the streets to watch.

Event chairperson Scott Green said that having even a limited number of chances to meet and come together in person safely is really important for the community.

“Undoubtedly isolation is difficult for us all and sometimes it can be taken for granted that your home is a safe and welcoming place. For too many members of our community that safety is not guaranteed.”

“The safety of our community is paramount and so for those who cannot join us in person we will bring our passion and vibrancy to you digitally until it is safe for us all to meet again.

“This will not be a stereotypical Pride but it will still have the same heart and soul put into its organisation,” Scott said.

The Community Awards 2020 will honour those who have been important role models, ran campaigns and helped out in community groups

Several panels will also take place across Pride with topics on anti-racism, mental health, workplace well-being, activism, and trans and non-binary voices.

On the entertainment side, there will be music nights, ‘movie watchalongs’, and a rainbow cake tutorial.

Scott says like many organisations, Galway Pride has had to “learn on our feet” to put together a suitable schedule.

“We had imagined a very different Pride before Covid-19 but we have gone ahead with a mostly virtually calendar of events to deliver another Pride Week because we know how important it is for our community.”

The theme for Pride 2020 is ‘Ní Neart Go Cur Le Chéile’ or ‘strength through unity’.

“It’s a sign of the times in many ways. Never before have we all had to stick together by making choices and sacrifices not just to keep ourselves safe, but to keep others safe. It’s why this year we have dedicated our ‘virtual grand marshal’ role to all healthcare care workers, for exemplifying these selfless principles.

“There are those that are increasingly trying to target the most vulnerable of our community and increasing incidents where a seedy underbelly in our society attack our community members with the utmost of bile. The LGBT+ community stands completely united, and united we will continue to progress as a society.”

All events can be accessed through the Galway Pride Festival Facebook page.

(Photo: Last year’s Galway Pride Parade).

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CITY TRIBUNE

One year wait for hearing of criminal trials in Galway

Enda Cunningham

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It takes up to one year for criminal trials to be heard in Galway Circuit Court, according to new figures from the Courts Service.

According to the service’s newly-published annual report for 2019, in the Galway courts area, it took an average of 9-12 months for criminal trials to go to hearing, which is unchanged from the 2018 figures.

The shortest waiting times in the country were in Carlow and Tralee, where cases are heard at the next sitting of the court, while the longest wait was in Monaghan at 18-24 months.

The wait for sentence hearings (from the trial date where a guilty plea was entered) in Galway was 3-6 months, unchanged from the previous year.

Appeals are heard following a 3-6 month wait, which is an increase from two months recorded in 2017 and 2018.

The report shows that civil cases – both trials and appeals – and Family Law cases (contested, non-contested and appeals) are generally heard at the next sitting of the Circuit Court.

Civil trials in Dundalk can take between 12-18 months to be heard, while contested and appealed Family Law cases can take 6-12 months.

Meanwhile, in district courts in Galway, domestic violence barring order and protection order applications take four weeks to be heard – the previous year, such cases were held at the next sitting of the court.

However, urgent applications relating to domestic violence in Galway are heard on the next day the district court sits.

Criminal summonses in Galway District Court can take 16 weeks to be heard (the previous year it was a 12-15 weeks wait), while charge sheets are heard at the next sitting of the court, the same as the previous year.

Summonses in Carlow can take 20-28 weeks to be heard, while in Tralee, the wait is 8-12 weeks.

In Family Law sittings in Galway, applications for maintenance or guardianship take between 4-8 weeks to be heard, compared to 6-8 weeks the previous year.

Last year, civil cases took 16 weeks to reach the District Court here, compared to an 8-12 week wait the previous year.

That compares to 12-16 weeks in Portlaoise and Letterkenny and four weeks in Roscommon and Waterford.

In the High Court, waiting times for civil and family cases stood at two months, unchanged from the previous year and the shortest in the country. The longest wait was recorded in Limerick at 25 months.

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