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CITY TRIBUNE

Pedestrianisation plan was missing one thing – a plan!

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley

On the last two weekends of August 2019, Brendan McGrath, Chief Executive of Galway City Council gave his blessing to the Westend Traders organisation to temporarily pedestrianise Dominick Street Upper.

The street from Monroe’s to Bierhaus was cordoned off to traffic from 7pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for two successive weekends. Dubbed a ‘pilot’ scheme, it was hailed a success by local businesses.

And, in fairness, it was a success. The closure facilitated on-street furniture, and a party atmosphere ‘back the West’. It was the place to be; a new rival to the Latin Quarter.

The trial gave a flavour of the potential to ‘re-imagine the public realm’, as the City Hall engineers would say.

There was one problem, though – the Council didn’t tell anyone in advance. Either they forgot, or couldn’t be bothered, but the local authority gave the go-ahead for the temporary street closure without consultation. There was no statutory road closure issued, which requires public notices to be published, and a period of public consultation. Residents weren’t asked.

Brendan McGrath just gave the nod, and it happened. A Council spokesperson at the time told this newspaper that Gardaí had been consulted; Mr McGrath had “no objection”.

Some residents made a fuss. They were annoyed, not by the closure per se, but for being bypassed.

It’s hard to believe that the Council learned nothing from that trial run. Almost two years on and the latest pedestrianisation “plan” has been haphazard.

True, there was an over-reaction online. Social media was a feeding frenzy. Some abuse directed at City Hall was not on. But it must take responsibility.

The Council had since August 2019 to prepare for pedestrianisation of Dominick Street Upper. It had months to prepare for the Government’s much-heralded ‘outdoor summer’.

And yet it failed to publish a coherent plan for the Westend, and it failed to consult in a meaningful way with residents. Ditto with Woodquay.

Credit to those at City Hall who at least tried to make something happen to benefit businesses; better than doing nothing. But there have been too many mistakes, too much confusion.

When the Council published public notices about its intention to make Dominick Street Lower a one-way and close to traffic at night Dominick Street Upper, the advert mixed up the streets.

Then there were mixed signals about which way they wanted the one-way system to operate. Inbound or outbound, nobody really could say definitively.

Emergency services – quite legitimately – raised official objections last week on health and safety grounds. That ultimately scuppered the guts of the proposals for both Dominick Streets.

What nobody has adequately explained is why were these organisations not consulted, and onboard, before the plan – such as it was – was leaked and before public notices were published signalling the intention to close roads.

The Small Crane and William Street West were included, then excluded and then back in again. Galway City Council over-promised. Businesses spent money on furniture based on those promises, which turned out to be undeliverable.

It all smacks of ‘back-of-a-cigarette-packet planning’ that changes depending what mood Twitter is in. It leaves a sour taste in those outdoor pints on a partially pedestrianised Westend!
This is a shortened preview version of Bradley Bytes. To read more, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
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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CITY TRIBUNE

Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
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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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
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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