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Planners say hotel expansion plan is too extensive for site

Enda Cunningham

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Plans for redevelopment works at the Maldron Hotel on the Headford Road – bringing it up to a 150-bedroom property with modern conference rooms – have hit a stumbling block with Galway City Council.

Planners believe the overhaul would represent an overdevelopment of the 1.3-acre site.

Pat McCann’s Lintal Commercial Ltd (part of the Dalata Hotels Group) had sought permission for extensive works at the hotel, which the company purchased in 2014 for €10.5 million.

The application comes following the recovery in the country’s hotel sector.

The plans involve:
■ The conversion of basement offices to fitness/gym use;
■ Modifications to the bar and kitchen and ground floor retail units to a conference/business centre with eight meeting rooms;
■ The conversion of the meeting rooms on the first floor to two bedrooms and the conversion of the existing gym to two bedrooms;
■ The conversion of second floor conference rooms to five bedrooms and the conversion of the spa and offices to 16 bedrooms;
■ The conversion of the third and fourth floor conference rooms to a total of nine bedrooms.
■ The retention of 14 bedrooms which were already constructed without permission on the first floor.

“The proposal is to create a business centre on the ground floor of the hotel by changing the vacant retail units into meeting rooms and it is intended that the business centre will help facilitate conferences and seminars in the city.

“In addition, the existing spa and offices on the second floor of the hotel are to be changed to bedrooms and a new gym and fitness centre is to be created in the basement of the hotel. In total, it is proposed that the redeveloped hotel will have 149 bedrooms.

“This application is made in the context of the recent recovery in the hotel sector across the country, the extent of which suggests that hotels in the country’s cities are near capacity during peak times.

“A recent report by the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation noted that the demand for hotel accommodation within many Irish cities is close to supply and that a scarcity of hotel rooms threatens to harm the tourist sector. This research has further suggested that the limited availability of hotel rooms in Irish cities has the potential to cause a bottleneck that is likely to damage the full potential of Ireland’s economic growth.

“There is significant merit in the development of new hotel accommodation within Galway City. Such accommodation, for which there is an urgent need, will support the continued growth of the city’s tourism sector and its overall economic development,” the application reads.

However, City Council planners have said the proposals are above the permitted plot ratios in the current City Development Plan, and would therefore represent an overdevelopment of the site, asking Dalata to comment on the matter.

The applicant has also been asked to clarify when the 14 unauthorised bedrooms became operational and to confirm if the building conforms with all health and safety regulations.

The Dalata Group now has six months to respond to the request for further information, or the application will be deemed to be withdrawn.

CITY TRIBUNE

Designated drinking zones in city centre are ‘only solution’

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Properly staffed designated areas are the only solution to out-of-control outdoor boozing, according to the city councillor who drafted the city’s drinking bylaws.

Cllr Peter Keane told the Galway City Tribune it was likely that councillors would seek to ‘tweak’ the existing bylaws in the near future to find a long-term solution that would enable young people to ‘enjoy a drink outdoors in a safe and controlled environment’, not just now, but in the future too.

To avoid a repeat of scenes around Spanish Arch over recent weekends, the Fianna Fáil councillor said providing areas where the consumption of alcohol was allowed would enable Gardaí to properly enforce the drinking bylaws throughout the rest of the city.

He said he could ‘absolutely appreciate the concerns of residents’ in the Claddagh and elsewhere where anti-social behaviour including urinating in gardens ‘and worse’ had been a blight in recent weeks, but said with proper control, those worst excesses could be avoided.

In the first ten days of June, 83 on-the-spot fines were issued in the city for drinking in a public place.

And last Saturday night, Gardaí closed off the Quincentenary Bridge after hundreds of young people gathered on the carriageway and turned it into a “highly-dangerous road traffic risk situation”.

“Control is the key word for me. Gardaí don’t have the resources, nor do they have the appetite as far as I can see, to deal with the lack of control there has been during the recent good weather.
“If you were to designate, say for example the Spanish Arch or a green area in Salthill, where the bylaws didn’t apply, you could put a number of wardens in place there to control the situation. You could provide adequate bins and toilets, and enough bodies to staff it, and that would allow gardaí to police the bylaws elsewhere,” said Cllr Keane.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story and coverage of the re-opening of the hospitality sector and outdoor dining, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Dispute simmers between businesses and Council over outdoor spaces

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Friction between businesses and local government over the reclaiming of public space to facilitate outside hospitality marred the beginning of the city’s ‘outdoor summer’.

Galway City Council has come under fire over its handling of plans by bars and restaurants to use street furniture to facilitate outdoor dining and drinking.

Most city watering holes and eateries resumed trading on Bank Holiday Monday – serving outdoors only – for the first time since Christmas, and the authorities reported that it was successful for the most part, although it needed time to ‘bed in’.

The city vintners’ group said its members with adequate outdoor space were happy to be back and described the mood as ‘euphoric’ in places.

But several outlets expressed disappointment with the Council.

In Eyre Square, the Skeff Late Bar and Kitchen claimed it had to cancel 200 advance bookings – up to 800 people – for this week, after the Council refused permission for “extended outdoor seating”.

On Middle Street, Sangria Tapas Restaurant lashed the Council for refusing it permission to use certain types of awning and windbreakers to facilitate outdoor dining. “Surely the powers that be can take time to support the industry that supports the city?” its proprietor said in a complaint to City Hall.

‘Back the West’, businesses criticised the Council for rowing back on promises to provide additional outdoor space on Dominick Street Lower and Dominick Street Upper, in time for outdoor hospitality’s reopening on June 7.
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

Council chief: ‘landlords see 4% rent increase cap as a target’

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said that the 4% annual cap on residential rent increases is now seen as a target by many landlords.

Brendan McGrath said that affordability continues to be a major problem for renters in the city and that an increasing number of people availing of the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme have to pay ‘top ups’ to their landlords.

The HAP scheme replaces rent supplement for those with a long-term housing need – the individual finds a private rented accommodation within specific rent caps and the Council pays the landlord directly. The tenant then pays a rent to the Council based on their weekly household income.

The maximum monthly rents under the scheme range from €330 for an adult in shared accommodation to €900 for a single parent or couple with three kids.

Based on their household size, tenants can also apply for a 20% extra ‘discretionary’ payment on top of their HAP payment.

However, Mr McGrath said many on the HAP scheme in Galway have to pay top ups to their landlords.

“Rents as a percentage of income is increasing and affordability remains a major problem for the city’s renters. The majority of HAP tenants require additional discretionary payments to assist them in maintaining their tenancies, particularly single person households.

“An increasing number of HAP tenants now have to pay top ups to their landlords even with the 20% extra HAP discretionary payment applied for their particular household size,” Mr McGrath said in a report to councillors.
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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