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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

Councillors back bid to ban city centre parking in Galway

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors have unanimously agreed to ask Transport Minister Eamon Ryan to limit parking to residents only in the city centre.

Pedestrians in the city are being treated like second-class citizens, according to the Mayor, who said cars continued to get the priority on Galway’s streets.

At a meeting of the City Council this week, Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) said the city had come to a standstill in car traffic, and pedestrians and cyclists were suffering the consequences.

“At junctions, why am I a second-class citizen in my own city as a pedestrian? It rains in Galway for 300 days of the year, but I am a second-class citizen when priority is given to motorists.

“It’s always the pedestrian that waits,” she said, hitting out at the length it took to get a green light to cross at pedestrian crossings.

One way to reduce the number of cars in the city centre would be to limit parking to residents only in the city centre, said the Mayor.

In a motion she proposed, seconded by Cllr Mike Cubbard (Ind), councillors unanimously agreed to write to the Minister for Transport to demand he pass the necessary legislation to enable the Council to do this.

The Mayor said residents were “sick, sore and tired” of people parking where they wanted when they visited the city and said despite a desire to introduce this measure going back almost 20 years, the Council was hamstrung by national legislation that prevented them from proceeding.

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

Planners approve homes for ‘cuckoo fund’ investor

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The green light has been given for the construction of 345 apartments at the Crown Square site in Mervue – the majority of which will be put on the rental market and operated by a ‘cuckoo fund’ for a minimum of fifteen years.

Crown Square Developments, which is owned by developer Padraic Rhatigan, has secured permission from An Bord Pleanála for the ‘Build to Rent’ development, with four blocks ranging ranging from four to nine storeys in height.

There will also be a neighbourhood facility with a gym, a primary care medical centre with pharmacy, a ‘working from home’ lounge, six shops, a games room and a creche.

There will be 240 two-bed apartments, 86 one-beds and 19 three-beds, all of which will be specifically for the rental market and not available to purchase.

A breakdown of the apartments shows there will be 240 two-beds; 86 one-beds and 19 three-beds.

To meet social housing requirements, the developer plans to transfer 35 of the apartments (20 two-bed, 10 one-bed and 5 three-bed) to Galway City Council.

A total of 138 car-parking spaces have been allocated on the lower basement levels of Crown Square for residents, along with shared access to another 109 spaces and another 13 for use by a ‘car club’. There will be 796 secure bicycle parking spaces to serve the apartments.

The Board has ordered that the apartments can only be used as long-term rentals, and none can be used for short-term lettings.

Under ‘Build to Rent’ guidelines, the development must be owned and operated by an institutional entity for a minimum period of 15 years and “where no individual residential units shall be sold separately for that period”. The 15-year period starts from the date of occupation of the first residential unit.

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

Councillors divided over vote on Salthill Prom cycleway

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to install a temporary two-way cycle lane along Salthill Promenade hangs in the balance, with city councillors split ahead of a vote next week.

On Monday night, the 18 city councillors will discuss Mayor Colette Connolly’s motion that the lane be installed on the coastal side of the road from Blackrock to a point opposite Galway Business School.

A poll of the councillors carried out by the Galway City Tribune yesterday found nine in favour of the proposal, with one indicating they will abstain. A simple majority is required and if there is a 9-9 split, the Mayor holds a ‘casting’ vote, effectively a second vote.

There has been a flurry of lobbying by cycling campaigners urging councillors to vote in favour, as well as some complaints from residents worried it will again impinge on their parking as visitors to Salthill seek somewhere to park up while they swim or walk along the most utilised resource the city has.

During lockdown, Gardaí removed parking on the Prom to deter people from gathering in a public space. This resulted in motorists blocking driveways and entering private estates, leading one estate off Threadneedle Road to hire a private clamping company.

Mayor Colette Connolly (Ind) believes there are a maximum of 250 spaces that would be lost to the project on one side of the road as currently proposed, including seven disabled spaces, which could be reassigned close by.

This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read extensive coverage of the issue and to see how each councillor intends to vote, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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