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CITY TRIBUNE

Plans floated for restoration of Galway’s waterways

Denise McNamara

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It has been dubbed ‘the Venice of Ireland’, boasting the most intricate waterway system in the country.

Before human intervention, Galway was a city of seven rivers and seven islands. At one point, there were 29 waterwheels drawing their power from the waterways of Galway to provide energy for the city’s various industries.

But today it is far from the shining jewel in the crown that it could be.

Many of Galway’s waterways are in a poor state of repair and cleanliness and appear badly neglected. Unpruned trees overhang the water, roots grow out of the walls, silt builds up because there is not an adequate flow and objects thrown into the water are not removed quickly enough.

But a community group calling itself the Galway Waterways Initiative aims to change all that, using the European Capital of Culture 2020 as a catalyst.

Its vision is to create an intertwined network of canal and riverside walks with signage and heritage markers throughout the city. It wants to plant the banks with flowers, shrubs, and trees that are kept pruned and healthy.

The group plans to re-establish navigation along the Eglinton Canal so that journeys from Lough Corrib to Galway Bay are again made possible. The project would licence glass-topped tourist boats to tell a different side to Galway’s history, taking in the Fisheries buildings, the Poor Clare Convent, and water wheel sites which powered flour mills, distilleries, and woollen factories, the regulating weir that protects the City, the Parkavera Lock and the Claddagh Basin.

It hopes to create a clear path for kayaks, canoes, and other small craft to wind their way through the interconnected water courses.

“Cities all over the world have restored waterways that had become filthy, urban sewers to objects of civic pride. A multi-year canal restoration programme that is an integral part of Galway Capital of Culture 2020, beginning in 2017 and leading up to and beyond 2020 has the potential for a rare achievement,” explains Phil James, who is spearheading the campaign.

Already, the group has the backing of 14 groups and institutions which have vested interests in the waterways, including NUIG, residents’ associations and diving and rowing clubs.

American-born Phil, who came to Galway to work with Digital, has a long experience in management in the not-for-profit sector, heading up Pro-Activate, which has secured substantial European Union funding to carry out projects with partner organisations from all corners of Europe.

They have submitted a proposal to the 2020 committee with an outline of what the project would entail and a detailed calendar of events leading up to the influx of visitors. This was drawn up after a public workshop about the waterways last May.

Highlights include water and light displays, a hydro-energy conference and the first hydro-energy installation, kayaking, canoeing, diving regattas, a design competition for a walkway over the old railroad pillars connecting the city to the Connemara greenway and the production of a plan for a ‘blueway’ connecting the Galway canals to the Ballyquirke canal network in Moycullen.

They envisage setting up a virtual “museum of the waterways”, with a plan for an actual museum. The project would involve a re-naming competition for the rivers and canals and a gala event in 2020 including a concert from a floating stage in the Claddagh Basin.

During Cultural Night last Friday, they put up eight signs around the city advocating that canal restoration should be part of 2020 in a bid to raise awareness about their proposal to the event committee.

The only feedback they got on the signs from Galway City Council was a warning that fines would issue unless they were removed.

A copy of the submission has been sent to City CEO Brendan McGrath and all local politicians in a bid to drum up support for the plan.

The group plans to launch of the Capital of Culture initiative on October 13, with a host of influential guest speakers.

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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