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Grant money key to new Galway City ‘cultural district’



Unless Fáilte Ireland stumped up a minimum of €5 million towards the refurbishment and extension of the Galway City Museum into Comerford House and onto the top of the Spanish Arch, the flagship 2020 project would be dead in the water.

That was the prediction by Chief Executive Brendan McGrath, who was responding to concerns by councillors about the €8.3m predicted price tag.

In an update about the planned new ‘cultural tourism district’ around the museum, Mr McGrath said the Council will submit an application for €6m to Fáilte Ireland – a million over what it generally awarded under the Grant Scheme for Large Tourism Projects.

However, the national tourism body had in the past upped its allocation for particular high-profile projects around the country and the Council had already pressed upon Fáilte Ireland officials the need to make an exception here.

The Council would have to make up whatever shortfall there was through the raising of a loan and pay for increased running costs of €300,000 a year.

Senior Executive Officer for capital projects and economic development, Mark O’Donnell, said the cost of the project was significant because of the complexity of the site located beside a national monument – the Spanish Arch – and protected sites such as Comerford House and the River Corrib.

The technology for the planned interactive exhibition spaces was also costly.

“We had a meeting with Fáilte Ireland and they’ve been exceptionally supportive from the beginning. I was very honest, very frank. I said if it’s a lesser amount it’s not going to be viable for us to go ahead with it.”

Cllr Mike Crowe (FF) said he would like to see the figures drilled down about “who’s costing us what”.

“Approaching €9m is a hell of a lot of money for an extension to a museum,” he said.

Cllr Collette Connolly (Ind) queried the ’low-to-medium flood risk’ ascribed to the site, saying she believed it to be a high flooding risk. She also said alarm bells were ringing about the projected cost given the massive cost overruns of the neighbouring arthouse cinema.

However, the project had one councillor dreaming of Bing Crosby returning to sing Galway Bay from the top of the planned Spanish Arch walkway.

“The positivity is oozing out of me,” Cllr Padraig Conneely grinned. “I won’t say anything bad. I’ve been looking for this for 12 years. It’s been delayed for many years and I have to pay dues to Brendan McGrath, he drove this matter forward – I want that noted.”

The Chief Executive said so far the design phase had cost €200,000, of which €150,000 had come from Council coffers.

“Without equivocation, if we get word that Fáilte Ireland aren’t providing at least €5m, the next report I’ll be bringing is to recommend it not go ahead.”

If all went to plan, Mr O’Donnell said the “landmark and exciting project” could be completed by the fourth quarter of 2020 and would need a two-month closure period for the museum, which is the most visited free amenity outside Dublin.

Councillors unanimously gave the green light for the project by approving the ‘part eight’ planning permission.


LDA identifies lands for over 6,000 new homes in Galway City



From this week’s City Tribune: Investment of €1.8 billion is needed to deliver on the potential for more than 6,000 new housing units identified by the Land Development Agency in Galway City.

The LDA’s Report on Relevant Public Land identified eight sites in Galway which it claims can deliver up to 6,050 affordable and social houses, if planning and other constraints are overcome.

It identified potential for up to 2,240 homes on HSE land at Merlin Park Hospital; up to 1,010 homes at Renmore Barracks; and up to 950 homes at Galway Harbour.

The report conceded these sites are on complex land with “numerous constraints” and are longer-term possibilities requiring masterplans.

The other six sites include: Ballymoneen Road; Terryland Waterworks on Dyke Road; Brothers of Charity Services on Old Dublin Road; City Hall at College Road; and Sandy Road.

Galway’s sites are among 83 State-owned landbanks the LDA has assessed as having development potential for up to 67,000 homes.

Only Ballymoneen Road and Dyke Road are in what the LDA terms Class 1, which can deliver a maximum of 420 within five-ten years.

This includes between 140-200 homes on Ballymoneen Road, and between 160-220 homes at Terryland Waterworks on Dyke Road.

The cost for the development of Ballymoneen Road, on a site opposite Coláiste na Coiribe, would be between €41.2m-€50.7m.

The total cost of delivering up to 220 homes on the Teryland site is between €78.5m and €101m

The remaining 93% of the total city target face greater constraints, and longer timeframes.

Almost 70% of the  target, or 4,200 units, is earmarked for sites that are ‘Class 3’, which are lands that have potential for residential but face more constraints and are longer-term possibilities requiring masterplans.

The LDA carried out an assessment on the eight sites in the city, which had an “indicative yield” of between 4,330 and 6,050 new housing units.

John Coleman, LDA Chief Executive said his organisation was “committed to working closely with the public bodies to find common ground for the release of land for affordable housing purposes and for the common good”.

This was a first step that “will lead to the identification of locations where new affordable homes can be built”, he added.

(Image: Lands at Galway Harbour identified by the LDA for up to 950 homes).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read extensive coverage of the LDA report and for indicative maps of the lands, see the March 31 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.

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Transport concerns over Knocknacarra high-rise apartments plan



From this week’s City Tribune: Galway City Council has sought further information from the applicants proposing to develop 227 apartments in seven high-rise blocks at the entrance to Gateway Retail Park in Knocknacarra.

In what is the second application for the site at Gort na Bró, Glenveagh Living Ltd is seeking to develop five blocks ranging in height from three to five storeys – with 85 one-bed units, 139 two-bed units; and three three-bed units.

In a Further Information request, the Council noted that Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) expressed concerns that the development “is located in close proximity to the preferred and/or approved route” of the N6 Galway City Ring Road.

“The authority is of the opinion that insufficient data has been submitted with the planning application to demonstrate that the proposed development will not have a detrimental impact on the capacity, safety or operational efficiency of the national road network in the vicinity of the site”.

Planners state that the creation of a “fifth arm” on the roundabout from the Western Distributor Road into Gateway Shopping Park and the site proposed for development was not discussed at pre-planning meetings and “is not permitted”.

Cycling facilities have been identified as concerning, as the two-way cycling lane on the WDR “ends abruptly”, bringing cyclists into the path of oncoming traffic.

Bicycle parking included in the application would be “difficult and inconvenient” to access and would not store non-standard bikes with cargo elements, it is outlined.

(Photo: Cllr John Connolly meets with residents to discuss the Glenveagh apartments proposal).
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the March 31 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.

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Junction underpass in Galway City regularly left under water



From this week’s Galway City Tribune: An underpass to facilitate pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate the Briarhill junction is regularly flooded with up to three feet of water discommoding the most vulnerable road users.

The popular ‘line’ walkway connecting Renmore to the heart of the city is also often deluged with water.

The two routes are used by hundreds of people to get around without cars but are an example of how Galway City Council are slow to address active travel issues, according to newly co-opted Social Democrats Councillor Alan Curran.

Cllr Curran had to warn off four people from walking through the underpass when he passed through last week.

“It’s like that for a few weeks. This happens regularly. I understand from the Council it’s a drainage issue. They’re aware of it and they have cleaned it out but it keeps returning in heavy rain,” he explained.

“The impression I got was it will take a while to get fixed. It may require some heavy engineering solution. My concern is the longer these things go on, the less people use them. Their only other option is wait ten minutes or longer at the begging buttons to cross four sets of lights.

“The entrances are dark and narrow and don’t give the illusion of safety for those using it, especially during the dark winter months. There was a pedestrian and cycling tunnel recently built in Amsterdam and the difference is stark – they know how to do it right.”

Head of Transport at Galway City Council, Uinsinn Finn, said the underpass was constructed as part of the original N6 Link, in the mid-90s when a roundabout operated.

When the roundabout was replaced with a signalised junction, with pedestrian crossing facilities and cycling lanes across the junction, the underpass worked more as a secondary option for pedestrians and cyclists.

“Underpasses – and overpasses – are not ideal and not considered in the city as we put pedestrians and cyclist generally ahead of motorised traffic and accommodate them at junctions with at-grade crossings,” the engineer stated.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the March 31 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism and buy a digital edition HERE.

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