The chief of Galway City Council has said it is “regrettable” that plans to transform the city’s canal network into a ‘Venice of the West’ have stalled.
The ambitious plan would require millions of euro in funding to undertake.
However, the Council’s Chief Executive Brendan McGrath said the local authority does not even have funding for much-needed maintenance of the canals.
“We have collectively agreed that Galway, because of its wonderful and prized canal network could become the ‘Venice of the West’.
“The canal network will require many millions of euro to be spent to lever and unlock its wonderful potential. Regrettably, that funding is not presently available.
“The existing canal network is now showing the effects of decades of under-investment and substantial monies are needed, not just to enhance the canal network but to ensure its preservation for future years.
“Indeed, the budgetary challenge for the canal network for 2016 requires the Council to ask the Lough Corrib Navigation Trustees to reconsider the high level of increase in funding that it has demanded of the local authorities to undertake increased maintenance.
“The Council cannot fund this expenditure demand as, quite simply, the Council does not have that level of funding available to it.
“Extensive funding is required to undertake essential maintenance over the next number of years and that money is also unavailable at this time.
“Indeed, it is probable, if available, that the spending of significant monies on the city’s canals, over the next number of years, is likely to have but minimal impact on the public eye, as the monies required to be spent must be expended on locks, on drainage on canal banks and embankments, on bridges and on the bed of the canal,” said Mr McGrath.
This newspaper previously reported that the replacement of rotten lock gates and other works on Eglinton Canal – which experts have warned could otherwise cause flooding or even death – could cost up to €1.5 million.
Last June, emergency works were carried out on the lock gates at Parkavara to help reduce the risk of flooding. At the same time, engineers carried out an assessment of the gates and found them to be in a “dangerous” condition.
“Sudden collapse of the gates with a consequent torrent of water could happen at any stage. If one gate goes, both will go together.
“Such a sudden collapse and torrent would pose an appreciable risk of injury or even death to persons in the area and downstream.
“This would pose a significant risk of damage to nearby and downstream properties and structures, such as the bridge at the bottom of Dominick Street,” the engineers’ report read.
The gates need to be fully replaced, which will require new timber, new stainless steel straps and bracketing and re-fixing the existing salvaged cast iron and welded steel brackets.
Man arrested over stabbing in Galway City
A 19-year-old man is due to come before the courts in relation to a stabbing incident that occurred in the city earlier this month.
In the incident, a young man suffered a stab wound to his leg at Galway Shopping Centre on the Headford Road, and was subsequently removed to University Hospital Galway for treatment.
It is understood that the man has since been released after being treated for what weren’t regarded as life-threatening injuries.
Gardai, who studied CCTV footage available in the area at the time, had appealed for any witnesses or anyone with information to make contact with them.
The attack is not being treated as a ‘random assault’ by Gardaí – both the victim and assailant may have been known to each other.
The Galway City Tribune has learned that a 19-year-old man has been arrested by Gardaí in relation to the incident and will face charges relating to assault causing harm.
The stabbing occurred on the Tuesday evening of July 21 shortly after 8.30pm – according to Gardaí, there were a number of passersby in the vicinity at the time of the incident.
HSE challenged on cost of Covid hub in Merlin Park Hospital
The value for money of the Covid-19 Community Assessment Hub at Merlin Park has been called into question.
County Councillor Donagh Killilea said it was now time to ‘row back’ on the hub, which has cost €18,000 per week to see an average of seven patients.
Breda Crehan Roche, Chief Officer of Community Healthcare West, confirmed at the latest HSE West Regional Health Forum that the facility was currently not costing anything.
She said that three such hubs were set up in the West at the height of the pandemic; two have been stood down, but Merlin Park was on ‘stand-by’ in case of a winter surge or a second wave of coronavirus.
Cllr Killilea suggested it was not sustainable.
“It’s seen 107 Covid-19 related patients in the four months that it has been operating. That’s 0.9 patients per day, and you’ve 13 staff there at a cost of €18,000 per week. Is this sustainable? We need to row back on it,” he said.
Ms Crehan Roche confirmed that the total number of staff re-allocated to the unit and the number of full-time staffing already there included a GP, a trainee GP, six nurses, two assistant public health nurses, one physio, one admin staff and one cleaner.
“The estimated cost of the operation and capital expenditure of same was €125,000. The cost of catering for the unit since the setup of the Covid services was €2,100,” she said.
(Photo: Staff at the opening of the first Community Assessment Hub in Merlin Park).
Galway City Council brands new PorterShed design “monotonous”
Plans for the development of a technology ‘hub’ on Market Street have stalled after Galway City Council said the design of the building is “monotonous” and of insufficient quality for such a prominent location.
And the Department of Culture and Heritage has ordered that a programme of archaeological excavations must be carried out on the site, which currently houses the Connacht Tribune offices.
Last April, the company behind the PorterShed business incubation hub near Ceannt Station sought permission for the redevelopment of the Tribune building, including the addition of a lightweight floor over the existing two-storey building and a small extension to cater for a lift and stair core. The plans also involved will be a roof garden/decked area overhead.
There would be a partial demolition of a two-storey element to the side and rear of the building, which would be replaced by a new enlarged area over four floors. In total, it would create office space for around 220 people.
However, the City Council last week wrote to PorterShed, acknowledging that while the proposal was acceptable in principle, they wanted a redesign.
“Whilst noting that the existing building is of poor architectural quality, it is considered that the design/visual appearance of the proposed building does not provide the most suitable design resolution for such a prominent urban site, which is located within a sensitive historic environment, being located within the Galway City Core Architectural Conservation Area and in close proximity to the historic St Nicholas Church.
“Whilst it is acknowledged that the refurbishment/extension of the existing building is challenged in terms of meeting the needs of modern office accommodation, it is considered that the architectural quality of the building is not of a sufficient standard for such a prominent and sensitive site.
“It is considered that [the proposal] does no integrate appropriately with the existing streetscape, nor does it provide a positive contribution to the visual integrity of the area.
“This is largely due to the uniform, monotonous design of the building, which incorporates a palette of inappropriate external materials, such as steel cladding, brick cladding and render,” the Council said.
PorterShed must also hire an archaeologist to carry out a programme of excavations at locations on the site in consultation with the National Monuments Service. A written report must then be submitted to the Department of Culture and Heritage.
In a submission to the Council, the Bowling Green Residents’ Committee said that while it was informed by PorterShed earlier this year of the plans to redevelop the Tribune building, it was not aware of the plan to build another storey with a roof garden.
The residents said that while they do not object to the plans for the building, they want strict conditions enforced on any events which take place in the roof garden.
The Council acknowledged these concerns and asked PorterShed to comment on the matter.
“In the event the roof gardens are to be retained, a management plan shall be submitted, outlining the exact nature of use/operation of the roof garden, along with operating times,” the Council said.
The local authority noted that there will be a loss of parking spaces on the site and advised the applicant to address this issue, as a contribution to transportation infrastructure costs will be required.
Finally, the Council said the proposed signage is unacceptable and would have a negative impact on the streetscape, and asked that an alternative design should include bilingual signage.
The Connacht Tribune – which publishes the Galway City Tribune – sold the building on Market Street in 2018 and will be moving to new offices in Liosbán Business Park later this summer.
Meanwhile, a separate PorterShed planning application to redevelop a warehouse adjacent to Market Street carpark – creating 130 co-working desk spaces – has run into similar difficulties.
The Council has sought a redesign of the plans as the proposal “does not integrate with the fabric of the existing urban environment . . . largely due to a mix of inappropriate external materials”.
Test excavations must also be carried out at this site by a qualified archaeologist and the same concerns were raised about signage.
“Pedestrian access through the commercial carpark places pedestrians at risk,” the Council said, asking for the proposal to be revised.
The local authority has also asked the applicant to address the fact that cycle parking spaces are unsheltered under the existing proposals.
The proposal involves a change of use of the 1950s two-storey warehouse and a new two-storey extension with modern design – it will house desk space for 130 people.
The Bowling Green residents, in a separate submission to the Council, said they welcomed the application because the site had been left in an unsightly and neglected state for many years.
However, they asked that a bin storage be brought within a gated area to avoid it becoming a “probable focus for antisocial behaviour”.
The Council agreed and has sought for this to be addressed also. PorterShed now has until the middle of January to submit the revised proposals or the applications will be deemed to be withdrawn.
Planning permission already exists on the site of the former Tribune printworks for a 10,500 square foot indoor artisan food market with around 30 food stalls, as well as beer and wine vendors, similar to the Milk Market in Limerick and the English Market in Cork. The developer intends to proceed with this in tandem with the PorterShed plan.
(Main image: the PorterShed proposal for the Connacht Tribune building, which Galway City Council has ordered to be redesigned).