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Land Development Agency set to take ownership of Port lands for housing


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Land Development Agency set to take ownership of Port lands for housing Land Development Agency set to take ownership of Port lands for housing

Galway Harbour Company is almost ready to sign off on a deal with the Land Development Agency (LDA) which would pave the way for housing on a six-acre city centre site.

Chief Executive of the Port of Galway, Conor O’Dowd, told councillors in an update on the port’s activities that the deal consisted of a transfer of one-third of harbour lands to the State-run development agency.

“The LDA has been engaging with us and we are at the final stages of due diligence for the opening of some land.

“It is fair to say that by the end of quarter one of 2024, we will have a transfer concluded with the LDA,” said Mr O’Dowd.

It would be the LDA that would carry out detailed design for the site, he said, in consultation with the Harbour Company.

The lands in question are located adjacent to existing sheds on the site and would provide for partial development of the area for which there is broader regeneration plans once the long-mooted Outer Harbour is complete.

A planning application for a deepwater port capable of taking larger vessels was lodged with An Bord Pleanála in January 2014, and despite almost 10 years having passed, no decision has been forthcoming.

Mr O’Dowd said he believed the application was advancing and the Board would make a decision “within 12 to 15 months”, adding that the current port could not keep up with demand.

The Harbour Company was on course to either match or exceed a record-breaking return last year but was having to turn away business – one area affected was the handling of on-shore wind turbines which have become a key element of the port’s rude financial health.

Infrastructure for at least 20% of the wind energy created in Ireland in the last year passed through Galway, said the Chief Executive, adding that the figure “is probably a lot more”.

“We have a very significant wind turbine project in 2024,” said Mr O’Dowd, but “business is being turned away because of the size of the port”.

For this particular project, he said, Galway Port could handle the blades but was not large enough to process the associated towers.

This also limited Galway’s potential to become a servicing hub for offshore wind farms, a sector which is set to expand rapidly off the West coast in the coming years.

“To carry out operation and maintenance for wind off-shore, you need to be a 24-hour port. We’re currently operating for four hours a day.

“The viability of the port is dependent on the new port,” said Mr O’Dowd.

Chairperson of Galway Harbour Company, Maurice O’Gorman, said all profits generated by the port were being used to fund the planning application and to advance the plans “once we receive our planning permission”.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) said it was “very frustrating” that An Bord Pleanála had not yet made a decision on the application almost ten years after it was submitted.

Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said the Port should be connected to the rail network and it was confirmed by Mr O’Dowd that the proposals for the expanded deep-water port included for a rail spur.

Meanwhile, Cllr John Connolly (FF) requested that the Harbour Company, as well as the other stakeholders involved, come before Council to provide an update on the proposed hydrogen hub at the docks.

The hydrogen hub, known as ‘GH2’, will be used for research and the production and supply of clean, green, hydrogen fuel for public and private vehicles.

The ‘Hydrogen Valley’ was announced by then-Taoiseach Micheál Martin in April 2022, and is led by a seven-member consortium made up of University of Galway, the Port of Galway, CIÉ, Aran Island Ferries, Lasta Mhara Teo, Aer Arann Islands, and SSE Renewables.

Mr O’Dowd said that the project was “still live but it is being slightly reconfigured”.

“Galway is required to have a hydrogen hub by 2030 in any event, and the port is the ideal location,” he said.

He committed to bringing Cllr Connolly’s proposal back to the consortium with a view to updating councillors.

Pictured: Chief Executive of the Port of Galway, Conor O’Dowd: land will be developed for housing.

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