The long-awaited revamp of Menlo Castle on the banks of the River Corrib will take a giant step forward early next year thanks to the allocation of €25,000 towards the project in the Galway City Council Budget for 2014.
This funding will allow the City Heritage Officer, Jim Higgins, to come up with a detailed conservation project for the historic castle, outhouses, and grounds, which, in turn, should result in substantial additional funding from the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht.
Conservation groups including Duchas na Gaillimhe and the Galway Civic Trust have come on board to offer the local authority full support to progress the ill-fated project, over 13 years after Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) were issued for the 17th century site.
A full oral hearing to allow the City Council purchase the castle and grounds from five shareholders took place at the Menlo Park Hotel back in July 2000 and, since then, there have been no moves to preserve the ruins.
An ambitious ‘Celtic Tiger’ plan, which would have seen Dublin-based businessman Noel Smyth develop the site in return for a top floor penthouse, was abandoned three years ago when Mr Smyth’s assets were seized by the National Assets Management Agency (NAMA).
Confirmation that €25,000 has been allocated to the Menlo Castle revamp in the City Council Budget for 2014 – which is due to be adopted today – has been warmly welcomed by long-term campaigner and local resident Cllr Frank Fahy (FG).
Earlier this year, Cllr Fahy called for a full-scale inquiry to be held into the cost and delays surrounding the ill-fated project.
“This €25,000 has been ‘ring fenced’ to start the process of doing a conservation project for Menlo Castle,” Cllr Fahy said yesterday.
“It will allow the Heritage Officer to draw up a comprehensive conservation, which can be submitted to the Dept of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht. There is funding available for the revamp of listed buildings, once we have finalised a conservation plan.”
Cllr Fahy said the funding had been allocated for the monument, gate lodge, and castle – he hoped that work could proceed on the gate lodge in the short-term.
Cllr Fahy said he was delighted that Duchas na Gaillimhe have come on board to progress the work through a community employment scheme, while Galway Civic Trust have already played a key role in revamping two iconic city buildings, the Mutton Island lighthouse and the Fisheries Tower, in recent years.
Gardaí bid to identify body recovered near Mutton Island
Gardai have launched an investigation following the discovery of a body in Galway Bay yesterday afternoon.
A member of the public raised the alarm after spotting the body in the water while walking on the causeway to Mutton Island.
Galway Fire Service, Gardai and the RNLI attended the scene and recovered the body at around 4pm, before it was taken to University Hospital Galway for a post mortem.
It is understood that the body may have been in the water for some time.
Gardaí are currently examining a list of missing people in the city.
Gardaí investigate fatal Carraroe crash
A man in his 30s has died following a road crash in Carraroe in the early hours of this morning.
At 3.50am, Gardaí and emergency services attended at a single car collision on a minor road.
The driver of the car, a man in his 30s, was pronounced dead at the scene a short time later. A passenger in the car, a male in his 30s, was taken by ambulance to Galway University Hospital. His injuries are not thought to be life threatening.
The road is currently closed and local diversions are in place. Garda forensic collision investigators will examine the crash site this morning.
Land Development Agency rules out Merlin ‘land grab’
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Campaigners have warned the Land Development Agency (LDA) to keep its hands off Merlin Woods.
Local community group Friends of Merlin Woods said that the amenity on the east side of the city is not suitable for residential development.
It has sought clarification on whether the LDA has earmarked part of the recreational and amenity lands for housing, after it appeared on its online database of publicly-owned lands.
In a statement to the Galway City Tribune, the LDA said its database compiles a list of all State lands, not just land for development.
In relation to Merlin Woods, the LDA said: “Those lands aren’t included in the LDA developments in Galway. The lands database is a map-based tool which compiles all State lands and has no reflection on development potential.”
It came after Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods raised concern that land within Merlin Woods had been earmarked for development.
“I’d be concerned that it’s marked as residential when it’s in RA (Recreational and Amenity) land. Some is marked ‘open space’ but some is marked as ‘new proposed residential’ on its [LDA’s] database. It makes us wonder why. We’d like clarity and to clear it up.
“The message we’d like to get out there is we need clarification, whether it’s a mistake on the Land Development Agency’s part, or whether it is an area that they consider as a residential area, which the community would be opposed to. We need clarity. It could be something that is in line for development later on, we don’t know, and we need clarity.”
Councillor Owen Hanley explained that the fears around Merlin Woods stem from legislation currently making its way through the Oireachtas that would strip councillors of powers to veto the transfer of land to the LDA for housing projects.
The Bill would also allow Government to direct what public lands – including those owned by local authorities – can be transferred to the LDA for development of social and affordable housing.
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.