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CITY TRIBUNE

Plans progress for Traveller-specific housing in Galway City

Dara Bradley

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The halting site on Circular Road.

Plans for new Traveller-specific homes in the city will be progressed before the year’s end.

And Galway City Council is also proposing the upgrade of halting sites in Westside and Headford Road in the coming months.

Elected members will be asked to vote on a Part 8 planning application this Autumn for a new housing scheme in Doughiska. Costing €1.2 million, housing agency Respond is planning to build 23 social homes in total, with four of them earmarked as Traveller-specific.

Separately, a City Council spokesperson said more Traveller housing schemes are in the pipeline.

“Two other proposals for new Traveller schemes are being progressed in discussion with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government and I would anticipate that funding approval and planning will be sought towards the end of the year with construction to commence in 2020,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the Council expects to make progress on the redevelopment of halting sites at Circular Road and Carrowbrowne.

“The planned redevelopment of the Circular Road halting site is also progressing through design stage and again will come before City councillors later this year for planning approval. No funding approval has been sought just yet. Construction will commence in 2020. Replacement of welfare units at Carrowbrowne will commence later this year and will be funded through Council’s own internal receipts,” a spokesperson said.

In relation to Carrowbrowne, the Council has invited tenders to provide 13 new welfare units at the site. “All welfare units must be robust, made of galvanised steel construction for long-life durability and must be secure with a heavy-duty walls, doors and roof and must be vandal proof. The units incorporate a kitchen with a sink, built in presses and drawers, a bathroom with a wash-hand basin, toilet and shower and a service room for plant,” the specifications state. They must also comply with current fire and safety regulations.

The Council said that other standard social housing schemes are being proposed and constructed that will include provision of standard local authority accommodation for Traveller families. Travellers are also being housed through RAS (Rental Accommodation Scheme) and HAP (Housing Assistance Payment) and in emergency accommodation.

The Council was responding to figures obtained by Galway TD Anne Rabbitte (FF) for the Galway City Tribune, which revealed the local authority was not drawing down its allocation of Traveller Accommodation Programmes (TAP) funding.

In 2016, some €40,000 was allocated and there was no draw down; in 2017, some €209,000 was allocated and there was just €95,000 drawn down; and last year some €177,000 was the allocation and none of it has been drawn down.

In response, the Council said it had received funding under TAP in recent years for fire safety works at halting sites and for the completion of extensions to Traveller homes.

“There are numerous other sources of funding for Traveller accommodation including our own revenue budget, principally for maintenance services on existing sites and schemes, and waste management,” the Council said.

The spokesperson added: “In relation to new build schemes, the principle source is through the Department of Housing. The Council have not drawn down any funds over the past number of years as the various schemes now proposed are at planning stage. Single acquisitions of individual homes are also recouped from the Department, including homes for Travellers. Houses acquired for Traveller families are no longer recouped from the Traveller Accommodation Programme fund as was the case in the past.

“The Council did not request specific funding under the Traveller Accommodation Programme for 2019 because we were advised by the Department that fire safety works at halting sites were no longer eligible under that specific fund and because funding for extensions now comes from the general allocation for such works, without reference to whether the house is occupied by a Traveller family or otherwise.”

Galway Traveller Movement said that budget underspend has been an issue every year since 2000, even though it has only received attention recently.

“The fifth Traveller Accommodation Programme will be adopted by Galway City and County Councils later this year. These programmes are five years in duration. The targets within the previous four plans have not been met and there has been continual underspend since the beginning of the first plans in 2000. There has been a lack of action for 20 years and local authorities must take responsibility for their lack of provision,” said Bridget Kelly, Deputy Co-Ordinator of GTM.

She said that two monitoring reports produced by GTM have detailed the “unacceptable lack of progress in meeting the targets” of the Traveller Accommodation Programmes in both Galway City and County.

“Sadly, as a result of this lack of implementation, members of the Traveller community, including a large population of children, are living in substandard conditions. There has not been the political will for these plans to be implemented and as a result the Traveller accommodation crisis continues to worsen. It is disingenuous for Councils to posit the blame onto the Traveller community for the lack of delivery of Traveller accommodation,” added Ms Kelly.

CITY TRIBUNE

Hundreds of snapper Pat’s Galway photos set to be showcased

Denise McNamara

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Well-known face: amateur photographer Pat Cantwell

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Pictures of everyday Galway faces and places – captured by an amateur photographer as part of a hobby – are to be featured on new hoarding to be erected around the Bonham Quay building site.

Pat Cantwell’s photos of Galway people, scenery and buildings have garnered over 8,000 followers on his Facebook page, ‘Galway Faces & Places’.

He has now been approached by the developers of Bonham Quay to use 500 images as part of a hoarding around the massive €105 million development creating office space, retail and restaurant units.

Pat has advised members of the public whose photos he has taken to let him know if they are unwilling to be featured in the ‘people wall’.

“I have literally taken thousands of pictures of Galway people – it could be as many as 14,000 people – and I tell them it’s for my website and get their permission,” he explains.

“But it would be madness to try and get 500 signatures for this. Since I told people about it on the website, I’ve had 400 positive affirmations and only one man declined to be involved and that’s fair enough. It will be a random selection of people – as many well-known people as I can get.”

Pat, a native of Raleigh Row who now lives in Mervue, was a salesman in O’Connors TV & Video outlet for 25 years before moving to O’Shaughnessy’s Audiovision and Peter Murphy Electrical prior to his retirement.

It was following an unfortunate accident while on holiday in Australia to visit his son who lived in Perth that his passion for photography really took hold.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

At least 240 Galway City Airbnbs flouting planning rules

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – At least 240 short-stay apartments and houses in Galway City are operating without planning permission, according to local authority estimates.

However, former mayor Niall McNelis has said he believes the real figure is “far higher”, while Green Party councillor Pauline O’Reilly said Airbnb is “destroying our city”.

Under legislation introduced last July, the owners of some Airbnb-type rental properties must apply for planning permission – where they fall within certain criteria – because the city is classed as a Rent Pressure Zone.

For any property which is a second or subsequent home (not the owner’s home) which is used for short-term letting, a ‘change of use’ planning application is required “for the purpose of residential short-term letting/B&B”.

Since the law was passed, Galway City Council has received just three change of use planning applications for short-term lets.

The Council’s own estimate is that there are 1,200 properties in the city that come under the short-term letting umbrella. It estimates that only 720 of these are ‘active’, and of those some 480 are exempt from the new legislation.

That means, according to the Council’s own estimate, that 240 properties in the city are operating without planning permission in breach of the legislation.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Four-fold increase in homeless children

Stephen Corrigan

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Emergency 'Cold Weather Response' accommodation for being provided by COPE Galway and the City Council at Seamus Quirke Road.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway City councillors gave their backing to Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy this week, despite being told that the numbers of families and children homeless in the region had sky-rocketed by more than 300% in three years.

At a meeting of the local authority on Monday evening, the Draft Region Homelessness Action Plan 2020-2022 was presented to councillors, in which it was revealed that in terms of homelessness, the West is worst – since 2016, the region had the highest increase in the country.

Three years ago, some 130 adults were accessing homeless services through emergency accommodation. In August of this year, that figure had risen to 351.

The number of homeless families stood at 17 in 2016; this year, that figure was at 83 by the end of September.

Some 200 children were homeless at the end of August 2019, a 344% increase on the 47 who were without a home in 2016.

The report notes that 30 people were sleeping rough in Galway City in October, while there were 251 homeless adults in the city by the end of the third quarter – 146 males; 76 families; and 185 dependents.

A series of actions are set out by the plan, with homelessness prevention at the top of the list. This comprises of ensuring early intervention for high-risk categories, including: prison discharges; young people exiting care; hospital discharges; people exiting direct provision; and victims of domestic violence.

The Mayor and Cllr Ollie Crowe (FF) both described the new Housing Task Force established in Galway – which does not include any elected representatives – as a farce, with the Mayor hitting out at the arrogance of the Minister for Housing in saying that things were improving.

“You’ve a situation where you’ve kids going to school and their news of the day is that they’ve moved to a new B&B – and they’re being laughed at in class,” blasted the Mayor.
This is a preview only. For extensive coverage of the issue, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.

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