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New performance space approved for Galway despite noise concerns


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

New performance space approved for Galway despite noise concerns New performance space approved for Galway despite noise concerns

From the Galway City Tribune – The owners of the Black Gate Theatre project have been given the green light for a new performance space in the city centre.

Peadar King, Eamonn Day Lavelle and Aidan Laffey of Tra Gheall Ltd, have been granted permission for works at Flood Street House on Flood Street, which include a change of use from retail space on the ground floor and office space on the first floor.

The plans involve a cultural centre with a café bar and performance space/theatre area on the ground floor.

The grant of permission came despite concerns raised by Flood Street resident, undertaker Robbie Conneely, over potential for noise impact on surrounding neighbours.

Last year, the planning application stalled when Galway City Council asked the applicants to produce a noise impact assessment and informed them that a proposal for a recording studio on the first floor should be omitted from the plans – regardless of proposed soundproofing as it would “give rise to a negative impact on residential amenity”.

Despite this, the applicants proceeded with the overall proposals and furnished further information to the Council last April.

Noise impact study

In a noise impact assessment forwarded to the Council, it was stated that measures would be implemented to minimise sound transfer within the building, including internal lining of structural walls and double glazing and lobbied doors.

However, Mr Conneely pointed out that the assessment also found: “It has not been possible in the short time frame to establish the sound insultation performance of the existing structural elements and façade. Therefore, it is not possible to state with accuracy the expected sound reduction of the proposed measures, nor is it possible to estimate resulting noise levels externally or in adjacent spaces.

“However, the measures proposed are expected to suitably minimise the risk of noise disturbance or complaint during use of the venue or the recording studio,” the assessment found.

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In response, the Council noted the acoustic report stated “estimates have been made of a pessimistic performance from the various elements to provide an indicative noise breakout assessment”.

“It is stated that analysis of the event space has been undertaken based on source levels from a busy bar, with music playing,” planners said.

A separate acoustic report for the first floor recording studio noted that most of the Black Gate work is voiceover for film, television, animation and videogames and the location of it within the plans meant there was “no possibility of transference of airborne sound through the concrete to neighbouring residential units”.

UNESCO City of Film

In its decision to grant planning permission, the Council said: “It is considered that the proposed use/venue would add to the variety of cultural activities carried out in the city centre and would thus assist in promoting the city as a hub for the creative economy, building on the distinctive culture, arts and creative legacy in the city, specifically including the UNESCO City of Film designation.”

A condition was included in the grant of permission that the cultural centre, performance space/theatre cannot operate outside the hours of 4pm to 11pm.

A letter from the project backers to the Council said that in The Black Gate’s time on St Francis Street, a hub was developed for the arts community with a diversity of events that was not catered for in other night-time venues.

“Added to this, our recording studio has been very active in bringing major voiceover and post-production work to the city.

“If we are really serious about developing a film infrastructure to support our UNESCO City of Film status, then it really is incumbent upon the City Council to support suppliers of film services like Black Gate Studio.

“This type of unique business with such strong links to out national arts/music/film networks provides an opportunity for the city to improve its cultural offering and in doing so, improve services and amenities in our city.

“This area of the city is zoned for businesses like ours. We have taken every measure possible to ensure that in our revised plans, our commercial and residential neighbours will not have any negative impact from our presence in the area . . . we fully intend to create a space that integrates seamlessly and respectfully into the local community,” the letter read.

Covid grant aid

Accounts recently filed with the Companies Registration Office for the year ended October 31, 2022, show the Black Gate operating company, Tra Gheall Ltd, made a loss of just under €17,000.

During 2022, the company received €230,472 in grants and State funding, including €53,500 under the Live Performance Support Scheme and almost €99,000 under the Live Performance Restart Grant Scheme from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

The total funding figure also included €36,000 from the City Council for Events Sector Covid and Live Performance Supports.

In 2021, the company made a loss of almost €82,000.

A note on the 2022 accounts said the directors had carefully reviewed service provision and resources available to the company in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In their opinion, the company will be in a position to continue to trade through the current difficult period and has sufficient support and resources to absorb any loses or disruption caused by Covid-19 for at least twelve months from the date of signing the financial statements [May 2023].

“There is expected to be a refocus of the business in the current environment. However, plans have been progressed to mitigate against any foreseeable risks. The directors are confident that the business will continue and that the financial statements should be drawn up on a going concern basis,” the note on the accounts reads.

It was also pointed out that the company purchased its own premises, Flood Street House, in the first half of 2022.

(Photo: The new ‘Black Gate’ premises on Flood Street).

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