Iarnród Éireann has revived plans for a multi-million euro overhaul of Ceannt Station – which includes extended platforms for increased services, new glazed entrances and modern retail units.
The State-sponsored body has been told that the National Transport Authority (NTA) will fund 50% of the cost of the scheme and an application will be made under the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF).
The project was originally granted planning permission in 2014, but was shelved in 2015 after funding was withdrawn by the NTA.
It is a separate scheme to the proposed new ‘urban quarter’ on eight acres of land beside the railway station, for which developer Gerry Barrett has been awarded the contract.
With planning permission on the station’s expansion set to expire in August, Iarnród Éireann has applied to Galway City Council for an ‘Extension of Duration’ on the permission for a period of five years. As a general rule, planning permissions expire after five years if a project is not constructed.
The company has now indicated that it expects the scheme can be completed by the end of 2023.
“Funding for construction of the development was to come from the NTA with an anticipated draw-down date of mid-2015. Funding was withdrawn in early 2015. This was beyond the control of Iarnród Éireann.
“The NTA has confirmed [this month] that 50% of funding will be available from them for this project. Our intention is for the remaining 50% to come from the URDF,” the City Council was told.
The plans involve the extension of the existing bay platform to allow for six-car Inter City trains and the construction of a new 200m full-length platform; modern retail units, new glazed entrances and state-of-the-art ticketing areas at the train and bus station.
It is also proposed to construct a new 1,000 square foot single-storey glazed entrance building on the northern side of the station and an extension to the north-eastern bay platform.
The plans involve some demolition works and removal of walls within the train station to provide additional ticket purchase facilities, enlarged concourse areas, new toilet facilities and new ticket inspector accommodation.
On the southern side of the building, the existing stores and maintenance area will be refurbished to provide 25,000 sq ft of space with new entrance plazas and glazed entrances, and an extended train concourse and platform.
There will also be glazed retail ‘pods’ as well as a new toilet block.
When the original application was approved, planners ordered that a Conservation Architect and qualified archaeologist monitor the works to ensure the preservation of features or other objects of archaeological interest. Irish Rail were also been ordered to introduce a management regime to ensure the carpark is restricted to the travelling public, including the ticketing and exiting mechanism.
They added that the permission should not be interpreted as prejudicing the future redevelopment of the site, or the feasibility of providing a rail link to Galway Harbour lands.
The City Council is expected to make a decision in August on the application for more time to construct the scheme.
Rationale behind Irish Rail’s plans
“The existing station public area in Ceannt Station is undersized to accommodate the level of public at present, it consists of only two dedicated rooms, the entrance lobby and the waiting room,” according to Iarnród Éireann planning documentation.
“This proposal is cognisant to the future development of a second full platform and makes passive space for this long-term objective. It allows for a phased approach in achieving this with initial phases being possible without impeding later on more extensive refurbishment.
“This increase in area will provide sorely-needed internal waiting and circulation space and allow Ceannt Station to become a more accessible and attractive location for bus and rail passengers.
“The proposal is to link all areas of the existing station building as much as possible, this will allow circulation from the existing entrance through to the new interchange link and into the extended public areas.
“The existing Iarnród Éireann and Bus Éireann ticket offices will be reconfigured to create a larger ticket hall and fully-accessible ticket counter. Additional ticket vending machines will be installed also.
“It is proposed to create additional passenger areas in the vacant Bus Éireann stores and garage area. The space available in this area is approximately 1,600 square metres. It is envisaged that this area will provide a combined waiting area and retail spaces.
“It is proposed to open and glaze the existing stone wall arches, this will create a colonnaded entrance from the southern side of the station.
“A new entrance from the car park side is proposed, this area will be glazed and screened from the platform areas. It will consist of a raised podium level, this is level with the station platforms.”
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.