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CITY TRIBUNE

Property prices see 8% drop

Enda Cunningham

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Asking prices for houses in Galway City have dropped over the past twelve months.

Asking prices for homes in Galway City fell by almost 8% over the past year – more than double the national rate – according to new research from property website Daft.ie.

The figures show that two-bed terraced and five-bed detached homes have been worst hit in the slump – with asking prices down by around one fifth.

The average asking price in the city at the end of June was €278,371, 7.8% down on twelve months earlier, while the county was down 1.8% to €200,802.

Nationally, the average listed sale price was €253,868 – down 3.3% on a year ago.

A breakdown of the figures for the city shows that asking prices for one-bed apartments dropped 16% year on year to €106,000; two-bed apartments at €133,000 (down 19%); three-bed semis at €197,000 (down 16%); four-bed bungalows at €351,000 (down 16%) and five-bed detached at €405,000 (down 21%).

Economist Ronan Lyons, who authored the report, said: “Market activity rebounded strongly in June, perhaps reflecting an element of pent-up demand carried over from April and May. This is particularly the case for sales, where over 5,200 homes [nationally] were listed for sale during the month, compared to roughly 2,000 in both April and May. Nonetheless, the figure remains below the total for June 2019.

“In the rental segment, however, significantly more homes were listed in June this year than last.

“The concern remains that policymakers see this as the underlying problem solved. While the new government may want to favour the construction of owner-occupied homes, the fundamental shortages are in the social and market rental segments and it is those segments that must be the focus for policymakers over the coming years,” said Dr Lyons.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Gardaí withdraw ‘shebeen’ prosecution against Galway casino

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Alcohol which was seized by Gardaí from the 4 Aces Casino during the raid in 2016.

The State has withdrawn a prosecution of a city centre casino for selling alcohol without a licence – because its operating company has gone into liquidation.

Midnight Entertainment Ltd, which operated the 4 Aces Club on Dominick Street, along with three employees present on the night, had been charged with selling various intoxicating liquors at the premises on November 28, 2015, without being licensed to do so, contrary to Section 7 of the 1924 Intoxicating Liquor Act.

The company had denied any wrongdoing and sought Judicial Review of the prosecution case against it in the intervening years, contending it did not require a liquor licence because it was a private members’ club.

The company was unsuccessful in its attempts to have the charge dropped and the matter was specially fixed for a fully contested hearing before the District Court in Galway last week.

However, the company’s solicitor, Alma Whelan, informed the court that Midnight Entertainment Ltd, had gone into liquidation in July and would not be contesting the charge.

A short time later, Inspector Des Beirne, accompanied by Sergeant Brendan Moore – who had brought the prosecutions – attended court.

Insp Beirne said he had just received information from the Companies Registration Office which confirmed the defendant company had gone into liquidation on July 3.

In light of that development, he said, the prosecution case would fail with regard to the company and he said the State wished to withdraw the charge against the company and also against the three casino employees who had faced similar charges.

Following a submission from solicitor, Valerie Corcoran, who had represented one of the company’s former employees, and noting the alleged offence took place in excess of four years ago, Judge Mary Cashin agreed to strike out the charge against all of the defendants ‘with prejudice’, which means the State cannot bring another prosecution for the same charge against them.

(Photo: Alcohol which was seized by Gardaí from the 4 Aces Casino during the raid in 2016).

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CITY TRIBUNE

Cairn Homes loses bid to keep Knocknacarra land off Vacant Sites Register

Enda Cunningham

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A property company – backed by some of the biggest financiers and investment funds in the world – has failed in its bid to prevent a site it owns in Knocknacarra being added to the Vacant Sites Register.

The ruling by An Bord Pleanála means that Cairn Homes Properties Ltd is liable to pay a levy of 7% of the market value of the site at Upper Ballymoneen Road for 2019 and each subsequent year it lies undeveloped.

The site was valued at €400,000 earlier this year, meaning the company already owes the Council €28,000 for 2019.

The Vacant Sites Register came into effect in 2018 – it is designed to force builders to develop their residential landholdings in areas where there is a need for housing and the site is lying idle.

Under the Urban Regeneration and Housing Act 2015, the City Council formed the opinion that the greenfield site – beside the Fana Buí estate – had been vacant for a minimum of 12 months.

The Council said that housing supply remained below demand requirements despite the upturn in construction (before the Covid-19 outbreak).

“The scale of unmet housing needs has grown over the period of the previous and current City Development Plan and requires an increase in housing output,” the Council said.

Cairn Homes subsequently appealed that decision to An Bord Pleanála and said the site formed part of a larger landholding on the western side of the Ballymoneen Road for which they were planning an application under Strategic Housing Development legislation, where plans for more than 100 homes or 200 student bed spaces are lodged directly with An Bord Pleanála rather than the local authority.

The company said the proposed N6 Galway City Ring Road bisects the northern section of the site and without a detailed design of the road, it could not progress the planning application.

The Council told the Board that Cairn Homes had sufficient information on the ring road to allow them advance a planning application – details of site access were provided by Arup, the consultants behind the ring road plan.

However, the Board ruled that the site is vacant, paving the way for it to be added to the register.

“It is evident that the bypass route does not directly impact upon the subject vacant site. The subject site is accessible from the Ballymoneen Road and, therefore, is not reliant on the bypass for access.

“I am not satisfied that an application for residential development could not be progressed on the subject lands pending the resolution of the final layout of the bypass if approved.

“Development could be progressed on a phased basis in accordance with an overall masterplan, with a first phase on the subject site. This in my view would not constitute piecemeal development.

“It is also detailed that the appellant has been proactively progressing a masterplan for the site and has carried out a number of surveys including topographical survey, site investigations, ecological assessment and archaeological assessment and, therefore, that the lands are not idle. Having regard to the nature of the surveys described by the appellant, I am satisfied that these do not constitute development works. The lands remain vacant or idle,” Senior Planning Inspector Erika Casey ruled.

Major investors in Cairn Homes – where the former CEO of KBC Bank serves on the board – include Moore Capital, which is operated by Wall Street billionaire Louis Bacon; JP Morgan Asset Management; Lansdowne Partners and GLG Partners, some of the biggest investment fund managers in Britain.

Cairn’s CEO and founder is Michael Stanley, a director and former CEO of Stanley Holdings – the company behind the controversial Belmayne development in North Dublin, which was launched at the height of the boom in 2007 by footballer Jamie Redknapp and his popstar wife, Louise.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Underage soccer coach pleads guilty to dealing cocaine

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An underage soccer coach has been given a suspended two-year sentence for selling cocaine.

James Sherry (42), 18 O Conaire Road, Shantalla, who is project manager for a London-based construction company, pleaded guilty before Galway Circuit Criminal Court to having cocaine in his possession and to having it for sale or supply at his home on February 15 last year.

He also pleaded guilty to having a small amount of cannabis and Xanax tablets in his possession at the time.

Garda PJ Noone told the sentence hearing last week that Gardaí from the Divisional Drugs Unit carried out a search of Sherry’s home and found €1,355 worth of cocaine and €78 worth of cannabis along with mixing agent, ziplock bags and a weighing scales.

Sherry admitted having the cocaine for sale and supply as well as for his own personal use and said the cannabis had been left over from a house party.

Garda Noone said Sherry was married with one child while another was on the way. He said the defendant worked for a civil engineering firm in London and travelled home every weekend.

He confirmed Sherry had 29 previous convictions but none were for drugs.  His last offence was committed in 2005.

In reply to Judge Rory McCabe, Garda Noone said Sherry was no longer on the drugs squad’s radar, but they would continue to monitor him.

Defence barrister, Deirdre Browne said her client borrowed cash from a person and could not pay it back.

“He got drugs to sell to pay it back but they got wet and could not be sold, so he got more into debt to the tune of €12,000,” she said.

In mitigation, Ms Browne said her client was gainfully employed as a project manager, was no longer involved in drugs and the probation service had assessed him as being at a low risk of re-offending.

She said he had been involved in awareness campaigns and had also been involved in training two underage teams but did not want to name them because they would not wish to be associated with him.

Judge Rory McCabe said Sherry had chosen to settle a debt by selling drugs and for a while at least, that had been his business.

He said the headline sentence was three years for selling cocaine but when the mitigating circumstances were taken into account, the appropriate sentence was two years.

The judge said an immediate custodial sentence would not be in the interests of justice so he suspended the two years sentence for five years on condition Sherry be of good behaviour and not re-offend. He took the remaining three drugs possession charges into account.

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