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Online is ‘killing’ local retail sector

Denise McNamara

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Online shopping and the lack of housing in rural Galway is killing retailers whose exodus will create a trail of ghost towns across the county.

That was the stark warning from Gort Councillor Gerry Finnerty who believes there is an urgent need for a significant tax to be levied on online shopping companies and for planning regulations to be relaxed to allow empty buildings in town centres to be easily converted for commercial or residential use.

If people do not move back in and reverse their depopulation, small businesses will simply shut up shop, he argues.

The Fianna Fáil representative has been a long-time critic of Galway County Council for not doing enough in response to the stagnation in rural towns. He first proposed free parking in large towns in the lead-up to Christmas to encourage people to shop locally.

The proposal was watered down to only allow free shopping on the first three Saturdays of December.

“Online shopping is crucifying retailers. The owners are telling me they’re a showroom more than anything else. People are picking it out, trying it on and putting it on their phones before going home to buy it online. I can’t understand why there’s no tax on this sector – it should be in the order of 40-50%,” he stated.

“Shops are contributing to their local area, paying rates, providing employment. I’m not trying to take away people’s right to buy reasonably but we can’t close down the whole economy.”

He said Gort was beset with vacant buildings yet there was a severe shortage of housing.

This is a preview only. To read the rest of the extensive article on retail across the county, see this week’s Connacht Tribune.

CITY TRIBUNE

Gardaí bid to identify body recovered near Mutton Island

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Gardai have launched an investigation following the discovery of a body in Galway Bay yesterday afternoon.

A member of the public raised the alarm after spotting the body in the water while walking on the causeway to Mutton Island.

Galway Fire Service, Gardai and the RNLI attended the scene and recovered the body at around 4pm, before it was taken to University Hospital Galway for a post mortem.

It is understood that the body may have been in the water for some time.

Gardaí are currently examining a list of missing people in the city.

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Connacht Tribune

Gardaí investigate fatal Carraroe crash

Enda Cunningham

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A man in his 30s has died following a road crash in Carraroe in the early hours of this morning.

At 3.50am, Gardaí and emergency services attended at a single car collision on a minor road.

The driver of the car, a man in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later. A passenger in the car, a male in his 30s, was taken by ambulance to Galway University Hospital. His injuries are not thought to be life threatening.

The road is currently closed and local diversions are in place. Garda forensic collision investigators will examine the crash site this morning.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Salthill Garda Station (091) 514 720 the Garda Confidential Line 1800 666 111 or any Garda Station.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Land Development Agency rules out Merlin ‘land grab’

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Campaigners have warned the Land Development Agency (LDA) to keep its hands off Merlin Woods.

Local community group Friends of Merlin Woods said that the amenity on the east side of the city is not suitable for residential development.

It has sought clarification on whether the LDA has earmarked part of the recreational and amenity lands for housing, after it appeared on its online database of publicly-owned lands.

In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, the LDA said its database compiles a list of all State lands, not just land for development.

In relation to Merlin Woods, the LDA said: “Those lands aren’t included in the LDA developments in Galway. The lands database is a map-based tool which compiles all State lands and has no reflection on development potential.”

It came after Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods raised concern that land within Merlin Woods had been earmarked for development.

“I’d be concerned that it’s marked as residential when it’s in RA (Recreational and Amenity) land. Some is marked ‘open space’ but some is marked as ‘new proposed residential’ on its [LDA’s] database. It makes us wonder why. We’d like clarity and to clear it up.

“The message we’d like to get out there is we need clarification, whether it’s a mistake on the Land Development Agency’s part, or whether it is an area that they consider as a residential area, which the community would be opposed to. We need clarity. It could be something that is in line for development later on, we don’t know, and we need clarity.”

Councillor Owen Hanley explained that the fears around Merlin Woods stem from legislation currently making its way through the Oireachtas that would strip councillors of powers to veto the transfer of land to the LDA for housing projects.

The Bill would also allow Government to direct what public lands – including those owned by local authorities – can be transferred to the LDA for development of social and affordable housing.
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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