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CITY TRIBUNE

Green light for 100 new homes in east of Galway City

Enda Cunningham

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A computer-generated image of how the new housing development will look.

Local residents have lost their battle against plans for the construction of more than 100 apartments and houses in Ballybrit which they believe will worsen an already chaotic traffic situation – a daily feature on AA Roadwatch radio reports prior to Covid-19.

Last December, plans for the development of land adjacent to The Meadows in Ballybrit were lodged with An Bord Pleanála – despite failing to meet City Development Plan guidelines on open space and parking.

Trean Meadow Ltd had sought permission to develop the five-acre site off the Ballybane More road (adjacent to Ballybrit Heights and The Meadows) and construct 78 apartments and 24 houses, as well as a childcare facility with space for 45 kids.

The residential units will be in a mix of one, two, three and four-beds.

The planning application was made directly to An Bord Pleanála under Strategic Housing Development (SHD) ‘fast-track’ legislation – proposals for housing developments of more than 100 residential units or 200 student bed spaces can be made directly to the Board following initial consultations with local authorities.

The application itself noted that it may be in ‘potential material contravention’ of the current Galway City Development Plan, which requires that 153 resident parking spaces and 34 visitor spaces be provided. However, the current proposal if for 105 spaces – 44 for the houses and the remaining 61 spaces for the apartments. A further seven have been allocated for the creche.

“The delivery of a high-quality residential development and associated infrastructure including a childcare facility should not be constrained by the open space and carparking provision as proposed. The development complies with the objectives of efficient use of land, delivering housing on residential zoned land and within one of the five key cities of the country.

“The proposed car parking provision equates to at least one space per dwelling . . . [it] can be justified due to the proximity of the application site to public transport links,” the application reads.

It adds that while just 14% of the site has been allocated for open space (the Development Plan stipulates 15%), there are recreational facilities at Castle Park, a 12-minute walk, and Merlin Woods, a 28-minute walk.

During the public submission process, several local residents made submissions to An Bord Pleanála in relation to the proposals.

All of the residents expressed concerns about existing traffic problems in the general area and noted that Ballybane More Road is used as a rat-run from the city during evening rush hour and into the city in the mornings due to the proximity of major exits to Dublin, Oranmore, Limerick, Mayo and Sligo.

One resident recorded 1,135 vehicles passing the adjacent road between 7.10am and 9.15am on one Wednesday morning in January.

Another resident said that due to the lack of parking spaces proposed in the development, it was reasonable to expect the excess cars of residents and visitors would have to park on the Ballybane More Road, which is currently narrower that standard roads in the vicinity – any parked cars would cause an obstruction.

Another resident on that road said that HGVs often get locked when trying to pass each other, and his garden wall has been demolished several times as a result.

On the morning of January 14 between 8-9am, he counted 1,320 traffic movements past his driveway.

“The development is grossly oversized for the location. It is totally out of proportion with existing dwellings. It is visually out of character and will destroy the last remaining undeveloped landscape and wildlife habitat in this area.

“I have no objection to a drastically scaled-down version [of the development] going ahead. The visual impact is absolutely unfair to my family, my neighbours and the poor souls that would have to live in that concrete jungle,” the objector said.

The DRA Community Group (Doughiska, Roscam, Ardaun) said the Ballybane More Road is not adequate to accommodate the existing traffic flow, and believed the three-storey apartment block fronting onto the road would be out of character.

Concerns were also expressed about the lack of pedestrian pathways and cycle lanes within the development and outside the site.

“The density [of the residences] is not considered conducive to family life, as they are considered too confined, without additional open space for children and adults to play and to live in harmony,” the DRA submission reads.

It added that there are a limited number of openings between buildings, which created a potential for them to be used as alleyways and therefore antisocial behaviour.

In her report on the application, An Bord Pleanála’s Senior Planning Inspector, Fiona Fair, said the development would be a “medium density scheme that respects, responds to and integrates with the immediate and surrounding context” and that it would not have significant undue adverse impact on the amenity of the adjoining area.

Ms Fair added that the quantum and quality of landscaping and public open space was acceptable, but highlighted that the site is constrained in terms of change in levels and the use of retaining walls, staircases and an embankment.

She also pointed out the development would result in an improvement in terms of footpath connectivity along the Ballybane More road, and improve pedestrian connectivity.

The Board approved planning permission, attaching a number of conditions, including a stipulation that construction work can only take place from 7am to 7pm Mondays to Saturdays and that 105 carparking spaces and 150 secure cycle parking spaces be provided.

It also ordered that one of the two-bed single-storey houses be omitted from the plans and the area be used for open space instead.

Trean Meadow is owned by Belmullet racehorse owner and bookmaker Damian Lavelle.

CITY TRIBUNE

Hospital worker failed to self isolate after trip to red-list country

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Management at University Hospital Galway have been asked to investigate ‘as a matter of urgency’ an allegation that a security employee at the hospital returned to work within the 14-day restriction period after coming back from a ‘red-list’ country.

The person has already worked at least two shifts at the hospital – including looking after an elderly patient – despite the fact that the restriction period would not have expired until this Sunday, September 20.

The Galway City Tribune can reveal that in a letter from SIPTU official to a senior UHG manager, it is alleged there was breach of protocol over recent days by an employee of an outsourced security company.

According to the letter to Services Manager Geoff Ginnety, while the worker was not covered under HSE employee rules, “they still must comply with the Government issued protocols”.

The letter from SIPTU states that the worker in question had told his colleagues that he was in a red-listed country and that ‘he did not have to restrict his movements’ for 14 days and could return to work.

“I request that you [Services Manager at UHG] address these concerns as a matter of urgency and provide clear guidance on how to deal with the issue,” the SIPTU letter states.

According to information accessed by the Galway City Tribune, the employee in question returned from a red-listed country on September 6 last and underwent a test for Covid-19 five days later on September 11.

Shortly after that, according to his employers, the results of his Covid tests came back as negative. The Galway City Tribune understands that he returned to his night-shift work on Tuesday night, September 15, and also worked the Wednesday night shift of September 16.

This newspaper has also been informed by reliable sources that on his first night back on duty the employee was left in charge of an elderly patient, while on his second night back at work, he was dutied to the Emergency Department.

When contacted by the Galway City Tribune, a spokesperson for the HSE said that they could not comment on issues relating to individual staff.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Leisureland sinks with €20,000 per week losses

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The plug is being pulled on Leisureland – leaving hundreds of swimmers, mostly children, and trainee lifeguards, high and dry.

Galway Salthill Fáilte CLG, the company that operates the publicly-owned facility, has confirmed it plans to shut down its swimming pool and gym, leaving members of six aquatic clubs, hundreds of schoolchildren, and the general public, without an amenity for the foreseeable future.

Swimming clubs fear they will lose a whole generation of young swimmers in Galway if the pool closes. And they have warned that it could end up costing €1 million to repair and reopen the pool after a prolonged closure.

Leisureland blamed the impact of coronavirus for its financial woes, with losses running at an average of €20,000 per week.

The company said that by August it had already spent its annual €300,000 subsidy subvention from Galway City Council, and the local authority has indicated it is not in a position to increase the subsidy further in 2020.

The planned closure – which could result in the furloughing of over 20 staff from next month – has shocked the local aquatic community.

A lengthy hiatus with Leisureland closed will mean Galway will lose a ‘whole generation’ of swimmers, according to Eamon Caulfield, President of Galway Swimming Club and member and former chairperson of Corrib Water Polo Club.

“We’re particularly upset and aggrieved that this is going ahead, it’s shocking. They should be looking to reverse this decision,” he said this week.

The majority of the five aquatic clubs that use the facility (Galway SC, Shark SC, Laser SC and Tribes and Corrib water polo clubs) are made up of children aged 10-18, including some international athletes. Hundreds of children from Galway schools also learn to swim there.

A water safety group has been using the pool every Sunday morning since it opened in 1973, he said.

“Historically it is where Galway gets its lifeguards from. How can you not have swim lessons in a public pool? How can you not have water safety taught in a pool in Galway?

“It beggars belief, we’re on the sea. The water safety people, where are they going to go, how are we going to get lifeguards for beaches? How are we going to get teachers for teaching swimming?” asked Mr Caulfield.

The clubs have roughly 150 members each and generate €150,000 revenue annually for Leisureland.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full version, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway Gardaí get more than 1,000 house party calls

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway Gardaí have responded to more 1,000 house calls relating to house parties during the pandemic from mid-March to early September – the vast majority of them in the city area, it was revealed this week.

Chief Superintendent, Tom Curley, told the Galway City Tribune, that the figures for house party Garda call-outs were ‘startling’ and a source of major concern.

“This is a no-brainer. For anyone thinking of a house party, the simple message is – don’t do it. A serious amount of Garda time is now being spent dealing with house-party related incidents,” he said.

Between March 18 and September 1 this year, the Galway Garda Division responded to 1,034 house-party related calls, most of them in the city area.

“This a real and pressing issue not only for the Gardaí and the health authorities but also for the general public at large.

“Large numbers of people gathering in an enclosed house setting can be potentially disastrous in terms of our efforts to contain the spread of this virus. House parties are out – it’s as simple as that,” said Chief Supt Curley.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read more on Covid in Galway, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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