Student accommodation included in a masterplan for the future of Nuns’ Island – which has already raised concerns among local residents – would probably be aimed at mature post graduates, some of them with families.
Galway City councillors were told last week that the vision document for the 15-acre community is in its early stages, and its drivers (NUI Galway, in consultation with the City Council) are merely in a ‘listening mode’.
Assistant Director at the university’s Buildings and Estates section, Brian Saunders, told councillors that everything put forward in the plan was just a proposal at this stage and that local residents and stakeholders were being consulted on all aspects.
The masterplan, which was first mooted in 2017, was been presented to the public at a two-day event in the college’s O’Donoghue Theatre last month, and previously at another public function in the Portershed.
Mr Saunders told this week’s Council meeting that two meetings, – one attended by 60 people – had already been held with local residents, as well as other meetings with the local fisheries interests, the arts and culture communities, the Galway Diocese, the Poor Clares, St Joseph’s School (the Bish), as well as owners of other properties in the vicinity.
The university owns seven buildings in the area, as well as Fisheries Field, the site of the Galway International Arts Festival’s Big Top (which Mr Saunders assured would be facilitated) while the Council owns the Nun’s Island Arts Centre, formerly a church.
The masterplan would see the education interests of the college as well as a possible cultural hub, public parks and possibly even a boutique hotel, being realised.
Mr Saunders stressed that the education aspects would concentrate on fourth level such as start-up enterprises involving post-graduates, many of them with young families and that it would be they who would be accommodated in any future residences.
That building is currently earmarked on the site of the Bish, which has its own plans to move to Dangan.
Despite opinions from some councillors that there is enough student accommodation in the city, Mr Saunders told them that there was in fact a deficit of 2,000 beds for third level students.
“It would be students of a different type of accommodation here and this may or may not be a feature of the plan. It would not be the first year partying type of students.
“We have ensured that our own on campus student accommodation blocks have been well managed and there hasn’t been any complaints about Corrib Village in the recent past as far as I know,” he added.
Cllr Colette Connolly (Ind) said she believed the local residents had not been “too enamoured about NUI Galway developing the area”.
“We have no visions ourselves in the Council for our city. I never supported private individual developers coming in with a masterplan and now here’s NUIG coming in,” adding she was surprised the college was not concentrating on promoting education rather than development.
“I am horrified that the overriding factor will be an economic one. Residents are worried about the student accommodation factor as it could be turned into Airbnbs in the summer months,” she added, saying she had concerns about the whole plan.
The college has employed Colliers International, a global development solutions company which has designed other inner-city neighbourhoods all over the world, including the Docklands area in Cork.
Roger Hobkinson, one of its directors, previously described Nuns’ Island as “enchanting” and assured that whatever way it was developed, it would not lose its character or its historic features.
However, he added, they did want to make the area more accessible and more sustainable to help elevate the city as a better place to live.
“This (regeneration) would play a massive role in boosting a quality of life both for residents and for businesses. I would see this waterways district as an ideal location for small indigenous companies with links to the university. This is the start of a discussion on this vision document and following a public consultation, the report should be completed by the end of the year,” he said.
He also pointed out that the timing was good, as the Government had earmarked €4 billion to be spent nationally in the next eight years on urban regeneration projects just like the one proposed for Nuns’ Island. There is a further €2 billion to be spent nationally by the Urban Regeneration Development Fund as well as €300 million by Fáilte Ireland.
Mr Saunders told the meeting that the first application for public funds under the Regional Development Fund had been successful, but he could not give a costing for the project, as it was still in the early stages.
Included in the masterplan are pedestrian bridges, one of them probably alongside the Salmon Weir Bridge, a project that has been on the cards for about 15 years.
Over 100 years ago, Nuns’ Island was the industrial heartland of the city. There were two flour mills, a granite works, a brewery and malt house, a fever hospital, a prison, a ladies’ school, a seminary, a convent, a Presbyterian church, two lodging houses and an asylum — as well as a number of private residences.
In recent years, many of the private residences have been bought up and renovated.
Gardaí raid cocaine lab in Galway City
Two men have been arrested following a Garda raid in which a cocaine laboratory was discovered in Galway City.
In total, Gardaí seized €178,500 in cash, €50,000 worth of cocaine (subject to analysis) and a number of drug manufacturing components as part of an intelligence-led operation into the sale and supply of drugs in the Galway Garda Division.
At 7.40pm yesterday (Sunday) the Divisional Drugs Unit in Galway stopped and searched a car on the M6 motorway in the vicinity of Loughrea where €17,580 worth of cash was seized.
As part of a follow-up search, Gardaí uncovered what is believed to be a cocaine processing laboratory and seized cocaine (pending analysis) with an estimated value of €50,000 at an address in Galway City.
At this address, Gardaí seized a quantity of mixing agent, a cocaine press, vacuum packer, industrial gas masks, and a cash counting machine, which are believed to have been used in the manufacture of cocaine for sale or supply.
In a further follow-up search, Gardaí seized €161,000 in cash at a separate premises in the city.
One man in his 20s was arrested following the detection on the M6, while a second man in his 30s was arrested at a property in Galway City.
Both men are currently detained at Galway Garda Station under Section 2 of the Criminal Justice (Drugs Trafficking) Act 1996.
These seizures were part of an intelligence led operation and were detected by the Galway Divisional Drugs Unit with the assistance of the Western Regional Armed Support Unit.
“It will be akin to the notorious Rahoon flats”
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – More than 700 local residents have signed a petition against plans for the construction of 330 apartments in Knocknacarra – which have been likened to “the notorious Rahoon flats”.
Child safeguarding concerns have also been raised by the principal of Gaelscoil Mhic Amhlaigh – who pointed out that the apartments will look directly into 19 classrooms.
A total of 27 objections were lodged against Glenveagh Living’s plans to build 332 apartments in six blocks – ranging from four storeys to seven storeys in height.
Locals have demanded An Bord Pleanála hold an oral hearing into the plans – that planning authority is due to make a decision by March 20, although it can decide to hold such a hearing first.
One of the objections – which accuses the developer of designing “tenement style” homes in a “blatant attempt to profiteer from the housing crisis” – was signed by more than 700 local residents.
Another objector said the development was “akin to the notorious Rahoon flats, with people being packed on top of each other”.
Locals have raised concerns about the huge number of apartments planned; overshadowing of homes; inadequate open space, playing pitches and community infrastructure; parking and traffic problems; low quality of design and road safety.
Glenveagh Living did not respond to a request from the Galway City Tribune for comment.
This is a preview only. To read extensive coverage of the Glenveagh plans and objections, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.
Arts fraternity rallies as Theo faces deportation
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Less than a year after being invited by the Arts Council to perform at a conference about diversity in the arts, a musician, DJ and rapper – who is about to embark on a project for Galway 2020 – is facing deportation.
Theophilus Ndlovu left Zimbabwe after what he claims was a lifetime of abuse at the hands of the people who were supposed to mind him.
His mother left when he was just six years old and he never met his father. He was placed in the care of an unofficial foster family but it was never a happy arrangement.
“These people I stayed with were abusing me. They were never my family. I was running away from persecution and abuse and the way I was treated by these people. I had to fend for myself since I was ten years old,” he recalls.
When Theo was 20, he saved up enough money from mowing lawns and selling chickens to escape, arriving in Ireland where he sought asylum. Authorities placed him in a Direct Provision Centre in Finglas for a fortnight before he was transferred to the Great Western Direct Provision Centre off Eyre Square, where he has remained for nearly four years.
Almost immediately, Theo felt at home.
“This is my family. Galway is where I found my voice. It has become my home. It is just where I’m meant to be.”
Theo has immersed himself in the arts community and has become a leading hip-hop artist, known as Touché, performing regularly at venues such as the Róisín Dubh and the Black Gate. He was instrumental in getting fellow asylum seekers and refugees involved in music collaborations.
He is a founding member of the multicultural music project ‘Atmos Collective’ and has facilitated numerous music workshops in Galway, “teaching, motivating and inspiring hundreds of young people along the way”, according to co-founder Alice McDowell, an Australian filmmaker and fiddler.
The collective was recently granted funding by the Galway European Capital of Culture 2020 committee to host community music workshops in the city and county over the next year as part of their ‘Small Towns Big Ideas’ scheme.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.
The petition is available online HERE