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Housing planning restrictions lifted on Crown Square site

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Councillors have voted to accept recommendations which could see a 20% cap on residential development lifted at the former Crown Control site in Mervue.

Described by one councillor as “the biggest hole across the city”, the future of the five hectare piece of land turned out to be divisive during lengthy meetings to discuss the Draft City Development Plan 2017-2023.

In their submission, joint receivers Kieran Wallace and Patrick Horkan, had sought amendments to the specific development objectives included in the previous plan.

They stated that the 20% cap (140 units) on residential development had limited the viability of the site, and they sought for this to be lifted.

They further called for a removal of restrictions on site access, which they said compromised connectivity. And, they wanted the reference to a four-storey building height restriction removed, on the grounds that there was capacity to accommodate higher buildings in less sensitive locations within the site.

City Council Chief Executive, Brendan McGrath, had recommended an amendment to the draft plan as follows: “The majority of retail floor space to be dedicated for bulky goods retailing and the balance for local retailing needs . . . parking shall be kept back from Monivea Road, and separated from the Monivea Road by buildings. The design of frontage facing Monivea Road shall be of a high architectural standard.”

He further recommended removal of the current restrictions on residential development (20% cap), access to the site from the Monivea Road, and building heights.

Mervue-based councillor, Declan McDonnell, told fellow members that this was “a very sensitive situation for a lot of us”, but he agreed that the site was not viable without some changes.

“I met the receiver and asked him had NAMA ever advertised the site with the existing restrictions – he said no,” the councillor said.

“They said the site won’t work unless the restrictions are lifted and there is an exit onto the Monivea Road.”

He expressed concern at Mr McGrath’s recommendations that the cap on residential development be lifted altogether.

“I worry that if you don’t put restrictions on residential, you are going to have difficulties,” he said. “I’d like to limit it to 40% (280 units). A full-lifting is too much.”

Fellow City East councillor, Terry O’Flaherty, said that she, too, had had a lot of consultation with residents in the area and, in keeping with their wishes, she sought to keep the plan as it was, except to remove the building cap of 20%.

Senior Planner Caroline Phelan reminded members that the restrictions they were now complaining about had been placed on the site either by themselves or their predecessors on the previous Council.

She agreed with Cllr McDonnell that allowing a greater number of homes would make the site “more acceptable and attractive to get it developed.”

However, she cautioned against leaving the Monivea Road side without an entrance/exit to the site.

“It is a huge site, and you are not going to avoid traffic on the Monivea Road,” she said.

“If you don’t allow access, you’re inviting rear elevation onto that road.”

Brendan McGrath agreed, and said that the changes proposed “probably constituted bad planning.”

“The Crown site is one of the biggest holes in the ground in Galway City, and you could look at it and do nothing. It is a site that adjoins GMIT campus, is proximate to the broader city centre, it will be on the bus corridor, and rather than tying yourselves up in knots, see what will work best for the community.”

He said it would be much better for the community to have a well-designed residential development at this location, rather than a large retail one that closes down in the evenings.

“This is a huge site, in the Galway context, and we do want to limit the intrusion to residents, but as councillors you have to look to the future,” he said.

Cllr Michael Crowe agreed that there were wider matters to be considered when deciding the future of this site. “We have to act in the best interests of the whole city,” he said. “The amendments are in the best interests of this process.”

He proposed that Mr McGrath’s recommendations be adopted, which was seconded by Cllr Niall McNelis. This passed on a narrow margin – nine in favour, eight against, and one abstention (Declan McDonnell).

CITY TRIBUNE

Residents call in the clampers to sort problem parking

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Residents in a Salthill estate have become tired of illegal parking outside their homes – and hired private clampers as a deterrent.

People living in Seamount off Threadneedle Road near Blackrock said they have been plagued by extra traffic and vehicles parking outside their homes, blocking access, during the latest Covid lockdown.

They said that since Galway City Council closed off the Prom to car parking, and closed the two public carparks, the cars have just migrated to Threadneedle Road and their estate.

Seamount is a private estate and the road has not been taken in charge by the Council. The residents have clubbed together and hired a clamping company, which will erect signs in the coming days and begin clamping illegally parked cars from next week.

Residents said they are also concerned that cars parked on Threadneedle Road are making it more difficult for buses to pass, and cause congestion.

A residents’ spokesperson said: “Since the lockdown, they closed off the Prom and closed off Salthill car park but people are still using the Prom and swimming off Blackrock. I have huge admiration for the swimmers, I do it myself when it’s warmer. But what’s happening is they park on both sides of Threadneedle Road, because there’re no yellow lines on either side of it and it’s not wide enough for cars to be parked either side of it, so buses are getting stuck.”
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG President’s upset at Covid breaches on campus

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – “I work in the hospital and we have had a really awful six weeks. We have nowhere to sit down and have our breaks. We are exhausted and would long to see family and friends. To see public health guidelines [being flouted] on NUIG property is a kick in the teeth.”

These are the words of an angry and frustrated healthcare worker at University Hospital Galway in a message sent to the head of NUIG.

President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh told students and staff at the university this week that he found it “deeply frustrating” that some students were flouting public health guidelines.

The HSE has confirmed that there were at least 441 cases of Covid in the city’s 18-24 age group – which has affected 224 households – in the past three weeks.

“Our neighbours contacted me expressing their upset at what they see as activities by our students that do not respect the health and safety of the community at large. People who work in the health service, people who have lost friends and relations to Covid-19. I share their upset.

“I was struck, for example, by one particularly heartfelt message from a local healthcare worker and campus user who shared their frustration with me last week on seeing groups congregating and socialising on campus grounds and which they agreed we could share,” Prof Ó hÓgartaigh said.

The head of the university shared the message in an email to students and staff this week, adding that students had expressed frustration that study spaces were not open on campus and at the challenges posed by the constricted spaces in which they study.

NUIG confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it had imposed sanctions on a number of students in relation to Covid breaches, while there have been none at GMIT.
This is a brief preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Principals band together for safer cycling infrastructure

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A total of 28 Galway City school principals have signed an open letter to the Minister for Transport and local councillors highlighting the need for safer cycling infrastructure around schools, to encourage students and staff to switch to bikes.

The push by Government to cycle or walk where possible during the pandemic has its limitations in a city where cycle lanes are rare and parents are too afraid to let their children cycle on narrow roads often choked with traffic.

A group of cycling enthusiasts in city schools has been campaigning to encourage the school community to engage with Galway City Council’s public consultation process for the next development plan which will have a key role in deciding whether cycling lanes or off-road cycle routes become a reality.

The first stage of the initial consultation process for the ‘City Development Plan 2023-2029, Your City, Your Future’ closes today (Friday). But the process will continue for two more years with more consultation encouraged once the draft plan is published.

This week a letter from 28 principals sent to councillors called for support for the provision of better cycle infrastructure in and around all schools. It has also been sent to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Galway West TD and Minister of State at Cabinet, Hildegarde Naughton.

“It is our view that existing road infrastructure around schools can be unsafe for children, teachers, and families who wish to cycle to school and we would like to encourage the development safe cycling routes in the future,” the letter states.

Principal of Coláiste na Coiribe, Eoghan Ó Ceallaigh, said it was important for the school community to get involved with the public consultation.

(Photo: Last year, the Council introduced a ‘School Streets’ pilot scheme at Scoil Iognáid, which bans cans during certain times, encouraging parents and children to walk or cycle. Schools now want proper cycling infrastructure put in place).
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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