A Bord Pleanála oral hearing on plans to build a four-storey nursing home on the site of the former Warwick Hotel came to abrupt end last week, when the one objector to plans didn’t turn up.
City planners granted planning permission for the construction of a 60-bed nursing home to Sharon and Paul Conlon of Rushmany Nursing Home Ltd in July last year, but an appeal was lodged by Iura Matel, with an address in Dublin, shortly afterwards.
Planning Inspector Delores McCabe heard that the applicants had sought an oral hearing due to “concerns” over the identity of the appellant.
Mr Matel had claimed in his appeal that the proposed development represented excessive density on the site and exceeded density standards as set out in the City Development Plan.
The appeal argued that the site was inappropriate, given that it adjoins two-storey buildings, and its adjacency to the low-density Lenaboy Gardens estate to the rear.
At the hearing, following a roll call by Ms McCabe to check for the attendance of all parties to the appeal, it was established that Mr Matel was not present.
“Mr Matel doesn’t appear to be present and so I am going to close the hearing,” she said.
Legal counsel for the applicants, David Browne, said that they were concerned over the legitimacy of the appeal as Mr Matel’s name had been spelled differently on a three of documents submitted to the Board.
He said in a case where the appellant does not turn up to an oral hearing, there were grounds for the dismissal of an appeal.
“I would like to formally apply for the appeal to be withdrawn,” said Mr Browne, adding that both he and his clients, the Conlons, believed it to be “vexatious”.
Ms McCabe said Mr Browne’s request would be noted.
In files submitted by the project team, it is pointed out that Mr Matel had presented his passport as verification but that the signature on it was different to that on the appeal. In fact, there were four different signatures across the documentation.
“The various permutations of the appellant’s name do not appear on the Register of Electors in the area,” the project team stated.
“To date, the appellant has not provided proof that he has been residing at this address since the first submission to the Council in October 2017.”
Engineers for the project team sent two registered letters – on December 22, 2017 and June 29, 2018 – but both could not be delivered to the address given by Mr Matel.
Rushmany Nursing Home Ltd purchased the site of the former Warwick Hotel in 2015 for a figure believed to be in the region of €700,000 and the following year, secured planning permission for its demolition.
In October 2017, they applied for planning permission to Galway City Council for the construction of a nursing home on the three-quarter acre site – with surface car parking and a south-facing landscaped amenity area with outdoor seating.
However, planners ordered a redesign with a significant increase in the quantity and quality of open space.
Planners also cited concerns over fire safety and instructed designers to liaise with the Chief Fire Officer.
Planning was granted for the redesigned 3,888 square metre facility but was put on hold following an appeal to An Bord Pleanála.
Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site
An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.
The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.
It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.
In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.
“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.
A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.
A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.
It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.
Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.
The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.
NUIG student accommodation firm records loss
The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.
However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.
Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.
The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.
Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.
The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.
Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.
Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.
The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).
The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.
It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.
As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.
It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.
In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.
Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan
Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.
Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.
The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.
It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.
Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.
Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.
“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”
The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.
He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.
“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.
“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.
“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.