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Group aims to pick Athenry up from its knees

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Athenry is a town on its economic knees, with hundreds leaving every week to do their shopping elsewhere, due to parking charges and a lack of choice – a recent objection to a new supermarket has further hindered progress, a new community group has claimed.

Although Athenry Revival Group is only a few months old, it already has over 2,500 followers on Facebook.

“Athenry has a population of c. 3,850, and has only one large supermarket – Oranmore has a population of c. 4,600 and has five major supermarkets,” says Sara Walls.

“Athenry used to be an incredibly vibrant town, the recession has had a huge effect on it, and we aren’t going to come out of it unless we get a massive boost. We need to sit up and shout, and make a fuss. People are apathetic – so was I.

“I look out the window and wonder where are all the people – it used to be buzzing. It is sad to see that people don’t come in unless they really have to, because of the parking.”

Initially, it was the objection by RGDATA (Retail Grocery Dairy & Allied Trades Association) to proposed developments by Lidl/Aldi that bonded locals – an application that is now in the hands of An Bord Pleanala – but their focus has since extended much wider, to include safety at schools and parking problems.

“Hundreds are leaving this town every week – almost all of our members leave town to do the shopping … It’s a disgrace that RGDATA should be allowed to ‘blanket-block’ the competition,” Ms Walls, a sole trader, added.

“I said that if there were any objections, I would object to the objections.

“RGDATA objected – I did a background search, and in the last four-five years they have objected to 70-plus planning applications by Aldi/Lidl in Ireland. Of those, around half didn’t succeed because of RGDATA.

“I’ve made representations to Senator Lorraine Higgins, that they are using the planning process to block competition. I felt it was wrong; she is going to ask the question in the Seanad.

“We don’t want to be dictated to by this group, who know nothing about our town. This big organisation is telling the people of Athenry what we should want and need.”

Athenry Revival Group also believes that the paid parking system has destroyed the town, and they have approached Galway County Council asking for the restrictions to be eased.

“A city like Galway needs parking controls, Athenry needs restrictions but we need free two-hour slots, so you can nip in and out.

“It’s destroying our town, it is driving people out – they go out of town to the supermarket. It is destroying us socially too. I want this Lidl/Aldi business – I’ll close down if they don’t come – people don’t stop because of the meter. The town is empty and dead…”

The group says that with the footfall down in the town, the income from Council-run car parks must also be suffering.

Ms Walls says that in 2012-13 Galway County Council lost €152,000 running the car parks in the county.

“It makes no sense,” she says.

“The Council will probably turn around and tell us that they can’t give us free parking because they can’t lose revenue – but we aren’t going to take no for an answer.

“We have given a list to local councillors – this is what we need to do with parking – but the council are inclined to ignore us.

“We have written to the mayor [Cathaoirleach] to say they are being paid to do a job, that they should read their emails, and respond, but some don’t even bother.”

The community group is also concerned with parking of a different type at the town’s schools.

“All four school sites are incredibly dangerous,” Ms Walls says.

“The Gaelscoil is beyond dangerous, I set up a group to monitor parking in the mornings.

“At the Vocational School, Presentation, and Croí Naofa, over a 45 minute period, 43 buses arrive in that tiny area every morning.”

She says that the Council’s response is that it will take a while to read their list of concerns, but even when they do, they will not have the money to address concerns.

Athenry Revival Group also wants to revitalise the tourist industry in the town, by making the heritage town and its castle a ‘must see’ for any visitor coming to Galway.

Connacht Tribune

Man in his 70s killed in South Galway crash

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A man in his 70s has died following a crash in South Galway on Tuesday afternoon.

Gardaí are currently at the scene of the two-car crash, which occurred at around 3.35pm on the N18 at Kiltartan.

The driver and sole occupant of one of the vehicles, a man in his 70s, was pronounced dead at the scene. His body was taken to University Hospital Galway where a post-mortem examination will be conducted at a later date.

The driver and sole occupant of the other vehicle involved, a man in his 30s, was taken to University Hospital Galway for treatment of his injuries which are believed to be non-life threatening.

The road is currently closed and will be closed overnight awaiting an examination by Garda Forensic Collision Investigators have been requested.

Gardaí have appealed for any witnesses or road users with dash cam footage to contact them. 

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Connacht Tribune

Schools and colleges in Galway advised to close for Storm Barra

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Schools in Galway have begun informing parents that they will not open tomorrow, following advice from the Department of Education.

The Dept said this evening that schools, colleges and universities in areas where a Status Orange or Red warning apply for Storm Barra should not open.

A spokesperson said: “Met Éireann has advised that there is a strong possibility that the status of parts of these counties currently in Status Orange are likely to change and escalate to Status Red.

“Due to the significant nature of Storm Barra, as forecast by Met Éireann and to give sufficient notice to institutions of further and higher education, the department is advising that all universities, colleges and further education facilities covered by the Red Alert and Orange warning from Met Éireann should not open tomorrow, 7 December.

“All schools and third level institutions should keep up-to-date with the current weather warnings which are carried on all national and local news bulletins and in particular any change in the status warning for their area.”

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CITY TRIBUNE

Emergency accommodation for rough sleepers in Galway during Storm Barra

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Arrangements have been made to provide emergency accommodation for rough sleepers ahead of Storm Barra hitting Galway in the morning.

Accommodation will be provided at locations including The Glenoaks in the Westside, the Fairgreen in the city centre and Osterley Lodge in Salthill (Contact 085 8009709 or 085 8009641).

The COPE Galway Day Centre will remain open all day Tuesday from 8.30am to closing.

Meanwhile, Galway City Council has warned that a number of roads may be closed in the morning ahead of high tide, including Salthill Prom.

Following ongoing meetings of the Inter-Agency Co-ordination group today and based on the latest information available, a number of precautionary measures have been put in place.

Road Closures:

  • Closure of Silverstrand Beach at 6pm Monday
  • Closure of Ballyloughane Beach at midnight (Local Traffic only)
  • Closure of Rosshill Road at 6am Tuesday
  • Closure of Salthill Promenade at midnight:
  • Blackrock Tower to Seapoint and onto Grattan Road. (Closure of Grattan Road may be required. Monitoring in place to decide.)
  • Potential closure of roads along the Claddagh, Docks and Spanish Arch from 5am Tuesday

A spokesperson said: “There may be further closures throughout the city as required and the situation will be closely monitored and regular updates given.  Motorists will experience delays as a result.”

The carparks at Toft Park and on the Promenade have been closed and all vehicle owners have been asked to move their vehicles from car parks and along the Prom.

Sand bags are now available at the following manned locations: the former Tourist Kiosk in Salthill (behind Seapoint); Claddagh Hall; Galway Fire Station; Spanish Arch; the Docks (beside the pedestrian crossing at St Nicholas Street).

“Anyone who avails of sandbags should retain them in their possession for use throughout the upcoming winter season. Please do not take any more sandbags than you need,” the Council spokesperson said.

“The main impacts will include strong winds, falling trees and potential flooding.  High tide in Galway Bay will be at 6.45am Tuesday.

“Some trees may be compromised due to saturated soils at the moment, and with more rain forecast with Storm Barra some disruption due to falling trees/branches is likely. Heavy rain, coupled with falling leaves may block drains and gullies, leading to surface flooding. Galway City Council staff have been carrying out drainage maintenance across the city in advance of the storm to minimise potential flooding risks.

“Storm Barra will produce significant swell, high waves and sizeable storm surges. This will lead to wave overtopping, some coastal flooding and damage, especially along western and southern coasts,” the Council said.

Business owners and homeowners are advised to check their own drains and secure any loose objects within their property in advance of the warning taking effect.

“Galway City Council advises remaining indoors during the period of the warning and, as always, to avoid coastal areas. Parks and other wooded areas should also be avoided, due to the danger of falling trees. If absolutely essential to travel, please exercise extreme caution out and about especially on coastal roads and exposed shores.

“City Council staff will be on standby for clean-up following the passing of Storm Barra and the associated warning once it has been deemed safe to do so.  Please note the associated clean-up which will commence on Wednesday morning may impact on traffic.”

Galway City Council Customer Services phone lines are available to deal with emergency calls on 091 536400. For the Galway County Council area, the phone number is 091 509069.

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