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Planners to work on solution to landlocked €4m site for sports campus

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Planners will prepare a Local Area Plan (LAP) for Murrough, encompassing lands owned by Galway Mayo Institute of Technology earmarked for a new sports campus.

Galway City Council has also agreed to work with GMIT to achieve “safe and suitable” access to Murrough House and surrounding lands.

The agreement by the local authority to prepare an LAP, and work towards providing access to the restricted site, could pave the way for GMIT to develop a sports campus fronting onto Galway Bay.

The third level institute’s plans to develop its lands at Murrough out the Dublin Road on the east of the city, have been hampered by the lack of an area plan and restricted access.

Located between the Dublin-Galway main railway line and Galway Bay and only accessible from the sea or over an uncontrolled level crossing, Murrough House on 20 acres of land was purchased by GMIT in 2003 for €4 million.

The house is a listed protected structure as are the level crossing gates. It has remained vacant since it was purchased 13 years ago.

GMIT purchased nearby Murrough Lodge in 2013 for €50,000 to improve access to Murrough lands.

Figures previously released to this newspaper under Freedom of Information show it is costing almost €50,000 on average per annum for maintenance, upkeep and other costs including caretaking, energy, and one-off repairs for Murrough House.

GMIT submitted its plan to the City Council, as part of the Galway City Development Plan for the next five years.

During debate on the plan, Labour Party city councillor Billy Cameron proposed that members accept the submission, with the addition that GMIT provide an area plan, and fund it.

This was seconded, but then withdrawn, by Independent Terry O’Flaherty.

Senior planner Caroline Phelan pointed out that GMIT is only a part-owner of these lands, so to carry out a full plan of the area would be difficult. She said it was misleading to say that the Council was stalling the development.

“It will be solved by making a safe access onto the site (ie. across the railway line),” she said.

Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said Murrough lands are worth developing. He said the key limiting factor is the access issue.

It would be wrong to impose requirements on GMIT when they are not the only land owners and there are various stakeholders, and they need to come together to address this, he said.

“Councillors may have a different view, but what’s needed is a willpower to tackle the problem and fund it. GMIT are saying they have a land bank and should develop it,” said Mr McGrath.

The stakeholders were: GMIT, Irish Rail, City Council, and other land owners.

The issue was parked but councillors returned to it at the next development plan meeting. They agreed a wording, which was proposed by Independent Declan McDonnell and seconded by Sinn Féin’s Cathal Ó Conchúir, which paves the way for a LAP to be drawn up, and working towards addressing access issues to the site.

“The Council will prepare an LAP for the Murrough area. The aim of the LAP is to ensure the reservation of a substantial land bank for recreational purposes. The plan will allow mixed-use development, which will maximise the development of recreational facilities and will create a vibrant area with efficient public transport links to the rest of the city. It will integrate with the amenity facilities at Ballyloughane Beach.

“The plan will take account of the sensitive ecological environment at this location and will incorporate appropriate measures to mitigate against flood risk. In order to achieve the necessary recreational facilities, two thirds of the area will be reserved for this purpose,” the development plan reads.

Councillors also agreed that the Council, “will endeavour to work in partnership with the college to achieve a safe and suitable access to service the lands that will, in turn, facilitate their use for sports and ancillary facilities.”

GMIT’s stated objective in purchasing the site was to develop the lands and sea front into a sports ground including water based activities for students.

The plan was for three pitches; and the house, measuring almost 7,000 square feet, was earmarked for marine research or possibly a clubhouse and dressing rooms.

GMIT also planned to give the Council one mile of shore frontage so that the local authority could develop a walkway from Murrough into the city and on to Salthill and Barna.

In 2008, GMIT submitted a planning application to develop sports pitches on the lands. It withdrew the application pending the drawing up of an LAP, which has now been included in the city’s development plan from 2017 onwards.

Connacht Tribune

Confusion reigns – but publicans continue serving pints outdoors

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Galway City publicans continued this week to serve alcohol in newly created on-street outdoor dining sections – despite warnings from Gardaí that it was against licensing laws.

The local branch of the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) said it is hoping Government will, if necessary, introduce legislation that facilitates pubs serving alcohol in public spaces reclaimed for outdoor hospitality.

On Friday last, our sister newspaper, Galway City Tribune revealed that Gardaí had visited a number of city pubs warning they were not legally permitted to serve alcohol outdoors in temporary on-street seating areas created by Galway City Council.

Publicans were told that if they continued to flout the rules, files would be sent to the DPP.

When the crux subsequently hit the national headlines, Justice Minister Heather Humphreys urged Gardaí to ‘use their discretion’.

“The overwhelming majority of licensed premises are operating safely, and we in Government are determined to continue to support them. If local issues arise, I would urge local authorities, Gardaí and businesses to engage.

“However, I will also examine whether further measures are required from Government. Licensing law is a complex area but I have spoken to the Attorney General this morning and we will take further action if necessary,” Minister Humphreys said.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Apple plans second bite at Athenry data centre

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An artist's impression of the proposed Apple Data Centre.

Apple intends to have another bite at plans to build a data centre in Athenry.  Apple Operations Europe has applied to Galway County Council for more time to construct a controversial data centre on a greenfield site at Derrydonnell.

The company said it will identify “interested parties to develop the project” between now and 2026 to meet global growth in demand for data storage facilities.

It will spark hope in the County Galway town of a revival of the €850 million project that was dogged for years by planning delays and court appeals and was subsequently shelved. It may also attract fresh objections.

The world’s largest technology company was granted planning permission to build a €850 million data centre near Athenry in 2015.

An appeal to An Bórd Pleanála by a handful of local residents was not successful, and the planning appeals board confirmed the local authority’s decision in 2016.

But the company ultimately aborted its plans for County Galway in 2018 after three objectors sought a review of the decision through the courts.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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Connacht Tribune

Mum’s dream holiday turns to nightmare after cancer diagnosis

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Julia McAndrew, in hospital in Mexico.

A mother who went to Mexico on a dream holiday to spend Christmas with family is too weak to return home after being diagnosed with advanced cancer.

From the minute Julia McAndrew landed in the South American country, her health took a major downward spiral.

Her son and daughter were shocked when she asked for a wheelchair to make it through the airport.

She and daughter Eliska had flown out to see her son Patrick, who had relocated to Mexico to run an online learning business.

They initially thought she had fallen ill due to the rigours of a 22-hour, multi-stop flight.

But when her stomach problems did not improve and she began to lose a lot of weight and suffered from very low energy, they sought medical help.

This had to be done privately and without the financial help of an insurance company, Patrick reveals.

She was initially diagnosed with anaemia and kidney failure and underwent various treatments, including blood transfusions that appeared to be working.

But three weeks ago, medics discovered that what she had was Stage 4 breast cancer. Julia had cancer a decade ago but was given the all-clear after receiving treatment and a major change in lifestyle.

“It’s returned with a vengeance this time around. It’s spread to her pelvis, ribs and lungs,” reflects Patrick.

The cost of the treatment is $40,000 (€33,000) a month. Her family are hoping to build up her strength enough to endure the long flight home to Oranmore.

They have launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise €280,000 to pay for her treatment and in less than a week a phenomenal €36,000 has been donated.

Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, on sale in shops now. Or you can download the digital edition from www.connachttribune.ie

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