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Residents fight to save mature trees at Westwood

Dara Bradley



Galway City Tribune – Residents living near the former Westwood Hotel are desperately trying to save mature trees on public land from being felled as part of the Dangan site’s redevelopment into student accommodation.

NTM Capital (formerly Ziggurat) was granted permission in September of 2018 to proceed with the construction of five apartment blocks as a Strategic Housing Development.

A handful of trees have already been removed along Thomas Hynes Road close to the entrance to Tudor Lawn, as part of the construction work for the 394-bed development, which is ongoing.

Despite locals’ objections, Galway City Council has confirmed that the trees were felled with its full permission, and in compliance with planning permission.

There is another row of a dozen or more mature trees further along Thomas Hynes Road, which are ‘for the chop’ but locals want to save them.

Clifton Crescent residents have written to the Council to plead with Brendan McGrath, its Chief Executive, and its planning office, about their concerns. The Green Party’s two new City Councillors have been contacted, too.

“I am anxious that the mature trees on Council property alongside Thomas Hynes Road should not be interfered with. The five-storey block will be overlooking my home and these trees are the only things affording me any modicum of privacy. Five healthy trees close to the entrance of Tudor Lawn have already been removed,” wrote one concerned resident.
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Judge refuses to renew drinks licence for ‘out of control’ pub




District Court Judge Mary Fahy received a round of applause last week when she refused to renew and transfer the annual drinks licence to the owner of the Lantern Bar in Ballybane, following stringent objections from Gardaí and local residents alike.

The judge said the lack of proper management at the premises, particularly over the past year – which had resulted in Gardai having to deal with several public order incidents in the area – had led her to refuse the granting of the licence.

Eight objectors to the licence renewal clapped as the judge gave her judgement.

The owner of the Lantern Bar, Mary Lydon, 10 Blake’s Hill, Gentian Hill, Salthill, had applied to the Annual Licensing District Court for the transfer to her of the seven-day ordinary licence attached to The Lantern Bar and Snooker Hall, which had been licensed to her now former tenant, Kingu Kongu Ltd, and licensee, Danny Kenny.

Mrs Lydon had also applied to the court for the transfer of the licence, in accordance with the provisions of Section 30 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1927, “freed and discharged from any endorsements against, or records of offences committed by the former licensee”.

Sergeant Brendan Moore, who is the Licensing Sergeant for Galway City objected to the renewal of the annual licence on behalf of the Gardaí.

Mr Kenny was not present for the contested hearing.

Handing a medical report into court, his solicitor informed Judge Fahy that Mr Kenny contacted him two hours before the hearing was scheduled to begin that afternoon, stating he would be unable to attend due to a medical condition.

Judge Fahy refused the solicitor’s request to adjourn the hearing, noting the objectors had been in court all day waiting for the case to be heard.

Sgt Moore said he had given the solicitor a document, summarising the Garda objections to the granting of the licence, listing five different incidents which were alleged to have happened in or near the pub.

Benen Fahy, solicitor, explained he represented Mrs Lydon. Mr Fahy said Mr Kenny had surrendered his lease of the pub to Mrs Lydon in August and had signed the back of the licence to facilitate its transfer to her and the premises had been closed since then.

He said his client had not been aware of any problems with the management of the premises until recently and she now wanted to regularise matters.

“She has put the property up for sale and does not intend to open it again,” he added.

Sgt Moore called evidence to support the Gardaí’s application objecting to the renewal.

Five Gardaí in turn gave evidence about several public order incidents which were alleged to have occurred in the vicinity of the pub in the last year.

Garda Paul Gahan said he received a report of men fighting in the pub’s carpark on Sunday morning, June 2 last.  He arrived there at 1.20am to find one man being assaulted by several members of his own family. All were intoxicated and informed him they had been drinking earlier in the pub. Closing time was 12.30a.m.

“It took at least six Gardaí arriving in three Garda cars up to 20 minutes to diffuse the situation. The injured man withdrew his complaint so no prosecutions ensued,” he said.

Garda Pat Casey gave evidence he inspected the pub at 1am on May 12 last and found a number of people, including a 16-year-old juvenile, drinking there. He confirmed a prosecution was pending for that matter.

Garda Michael Gallagher said he was called to the premises at 12.30am on May 6 last after the manager reported a large Christening party had “gone out of control” upstairs in the pub.

He said the manager remained outside the premises as he and a female colleague tried to get the forty or so intoxicated family members to leave. “It was totally out of control and we had to call for assistance. There was chaos inside. There was no staff upstairs. They left it to the Gardaí to sort it out. The manager said he had lost control,” he told the court.

Garda Gallagher said he tried to reason with the father of the baby boy who had been christened but had to arrest him when he became threatening and abusive when asked to leave the area.

He confirmed that at least 12 Gardaí had to lend assistance on the night.

Garda Cian O’Boyle said he noticed one of the men at the Christening party upstairs in the pub had blood all over his face. He said he went to speak to a juvenile who was drinking but the juvenile ran outside into the carpark where he started fighting with another male.

He said he arrested the juvenile for being drunk in public and for breaching the peace.

Garda Christine Galvin said she responded to an incident in the early hours of New Year’s Day along with several Garda units, including the armed Regional Support Unit.

She said that up to 70 patrons were engaging in verbal disputes outside the pub.

“People were pulling each other’s hair. It was unsafe to enter the premises as people were leaving it. Gardaí were trying to get control of things happening outside.

“Patrons were crossing the road in front of traffic. Some went into Lios na Rún and started arguing there. People were arrested and a file is with the DPP about what happened that night.

“The premises was open and people were exiting as Gardaí arrived. The Gardaí were there to maintain control of the situation. People were very intoxicated, aggressive and very disrespectful to the Gardaí there.

“I just felt sorry for people living in the area,” Garda Galvin said.

Sgt Moore said he had never met the licensee on the many occasions he had inspected The Lantern pub, and he said he had inspected it more often than any other premises in the city since taking charge of Garda licensing matters.

“There was no proper control of the premises by the licensee and no regard for the Licensing Act.

“This is a densely populated residential area and the number of disturbances that have emanated from that premises and that have spilled out into the surrounding housing estates, has affected people’s quality of life,” Sgt Moore added.

Mr Kenny’s solicitor said he felt the Garda’s application, objecting to the renewal of the licence, should be struck out as the evidence stated some of the incidents occurred outside the premises and the licensee could not be held accountable for those.

Mr Fahy said the premises had been taken back and the licensee (Mr Kenny) had no involvement with it any more. He noted prosecutions were pending and they should be dealt with and those responsible punished for whatever breaches of the licensing laws they were responsible for.  Judge Fahy said her hands were tied because Mr Kenny was not in court to give evidence saying he was no longer involved.

Mary Lydon gave evidence she had leased the premises to Kingu Kongu Ltd for four years and nine months from April 2016. She said her son, Terry Lydon, looks after a portfolio of eight pubs which she owns.

She said her son started to have concerns over the running of the premises in recent months and spoke to the licensee who agreed to surrender the lease.

Mrs Lydon said she would be putting the premises up for sale after works were carried out to the satisfaction of the Fire Officer.

Sgt Moore put it to Mrs Lydon she was giving the impression she didn’t know what was going on at the premises or how it was being ran even though she lived in Galway.

“Should the license be renewed here today, how will we know that you won’t transfer it to another tenant?” he asked.

Mrs Lydon said she would not be leasing it again.

“I only want my licence back to get rid of the whole lot,” she replied.

Sgt Moore put to her that the licensee was aware of the Garda objections to the renewal since August, so he was aware of the objections when he surrendered the lease back to her in September.

“Don’t you know that this is merely a device to avoid objections and refusal of the licence renewal? He ran amok up there.

“You will find another tenant and in the meantime, no one is responsible for what went on,” Sgt Moore said.

“There will not be another licensee up there,” Mrs Lydon tried to assure him.

“We don’t know that,” the sergeant replied.

Terry Lydon said a YouTube video he saw last January of people arguing in the pub carpark prompted him to speak to Mr Kenny, telling him it was time for him to “move on” and hand the premises back.

Sgt Moore said there was nothing to stop witness getting another tenant in there “and continue your ‘hands-off, laissez-faire’ approach, expecting the Gardai to run your property for you”.

Mr Lydon said he took steps to get the premises back and he did get it back in September.

Judge Fahy observed it was strange that nobody was “moved on” the licensee in January, February or March and not until the licence came up for renewal in September, even though witness was aware of problems in its management since January.

Judge Fahy observed it was up to the licensee to control a premises and not the Gardaí.

She upheld the Garda objections and made an order refusing the renewal of the licence, stating the premises was not being run properly.

Mr Fahy asked about his application to have the licence transferred to his client.

“Your licence has not been renewed so you have nothing to transfer,” Judge Fahy replied.

She said she had made her order and he could appeal her decision to a higher court if he so wished.

She said that for the transfer application to proceed, the licensee would have to be in court.

“It’s unprecedented that the licensee is not in court and I’m not happy the medical letter is genuine. It covers yesterday and today I do not know, but the licensee is not in court,” the judge said.

Mr Fahy said his application was for the transfer of the current licence to his client and he asked the judge to adjourn the application to another date.

Judge Fahy again refused the application, stating the licensee had not been in control of the premises and the owner, since last January, had made absolutely no effort to remedy the situation and take it back until last month.

She reiterated she was refusing the application for transfer of the licence back to Mrs Lydon.

Mr Fahy intimated he would be appealing the court’s decision.

The residents clapped when the final order was made.

Afterwards, one woman said eight objectors had come to court to represent the people of Ballybane.

“We’re all very happy with the decision. That’s all we want to say,” she said. “No more drink late at night,” another woman added.

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Galway GAA resurrects floodlights plan for Pearse Stadium

Enda Cunningham



Pearse Stadium under temporary floodlights for Ireland v Australia in 2006.

The GAA has resurrected hugely controversial plans to install floodlights at Pearse Stadium.

Planning permission is due to expire next month for the erection of three 30.5 metre and two 36.5 metre high columns – each with between 33 and 40 lighting fixtures – at the stadium.

However, the Galway County Board of the GAA has now told the City Council that it will begin work in 2021.

The GAA has applied to the Council for a five-year Extension of Duration of the planning permission.

Permissions, as a general rule, expire after a period of five years from approval – the lights were given the go-ahead by An Bord Pleanála at the end of December 2014.

However, the GAA said that financial commitments elsewhere in Galway, the economic crash and downturn in attendances meant the plan for the lights had not gone ahead.

A commencement date of February 2021 has been indicated to the Council, with a completion date three months later.

“Due to the extensive programme of works being carried out for ground developments to other GAA stadiums throughout Galway, i.e. Loughgeorge, Tuam, etc, by Galway GAA, the development has not fallen within the financial budget and financial programme of works in order to enable the works to be carried out.

“Also due to the recession and the downturn in the economic climate, attendances at fixtures across the county and country had deplenished and as such, and to date, it was not a viable venture to commence.

“However, as other development works are being completed and with the upturn in the economy, we are confident that the proposed development will fall within the programme of works for the year commencing January 2021.

“Although we do envisage that the development will be completed before 2022, we are requesting the maximum extension period of five years,” the GAA told the Council.

In August 2014, the City Council approved the plans despite concerns expressed in nearly 100 objections from locals and residents’ groups that the lights would seriously harm the residential amenity in the area.

That decision was subsequently the subject of seven appeals –submitted by the Claddagh Residents’ Association, two from the Glenard Residents’ Association and on behalf of Rockbarton residents, while individual appeals were lodged ‘care of’ three other residents.

Concerns were raised over the impact the noise and lights would have on nearby homes, illegal parking, health & safety and traffic congestion.

One residents’ association argued that the lights would require an unrealistic and therefore unworkable regime to mitigate adverse impacts, particularly having regard to the history of unauthorised development at the Stadium.

An Bord Pleanála spent four months considering the appeals, and ruled that the lights ‘would not seriously injure the amenities of the area or of property in the vicinity, would not be prejudicial to public health, and would be acceptable in terms of traffic safety and convenience’.

However, they ruled that the lights can only be used on a maximum of 12 occasions between October 1 and March 31 in any one calendar year.

“They use shall be solely for the facilitation of match playing and shall not be used for training, concerts or any other recreational activity,” the Board added.

The lights were not to be used after 10pm, and restrictions have been placed on the level of illumination allowable. The middle mast on the Dr Mannix Road side must be demountable and removed from the site before April 30 and not erected before October 1 each year.

The Board ordered that the use of the floodlights must also be logged and a report submitted to the Council by April 30 each year – in the event of a dispute, the log must be made available to the Council for public inspection within one month of request.

The Council is due to make a decision on the Extension of Duration application in early January.

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Plans lodged for €25m STEM building at GMIT

Enda Cunningham



An architect's impression of the new GMIT STEM building

A planning application has been lodged at City Hall for a new four-storey building at GMIT to house the schools of science, computing and engineering.

The €25m project is part of the college’s plan to achieve Technological University status.

The STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) block will be an extension to the existing science and technology schools and will create space for up to 450 students.

The building will include 30 classrooms, as well as research labs, meeting rooms, seminar rooms, offices, informal education ‘break-out’ areas and lecture theatres set over four floors.

The extension would be separated from the existing building by five metres, and will have a link on the ground floor level, while there will be two bridge links connecting the building at first floor level.

According to the application: “The proposed extension is driven by GMIT objectives to improve lab-based space provision for STEM education, enhance student experience and enable progression towards Technological University status.

“Currently, 77% of GMIT students attend the Galway campus. The campus, however, provides 27% below Institute of Technology space norms of 10 square metres per student.

“The design, construction and operations of the extension will also be used as a comprehensive case study for School of Engineering students.

“The building will not have any significant impact on the amenity of residential properties to the east of the site along Ballybane Road,” the application reads.

In October 2017, the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton announced a €200 million PPP (Public-Private Partnership) Programme for the Higher Education sector.

The objective was to provide a “high-quality infrastructure that is equipped to cater to a significantly expanded student body, that supports innovative and flexible approaches to teaching and learning”.

The investment was across 11 Institutes of Technology around the country, including GMIT, with a focus on STEM.

Under the so-called ‘Connacht-Ulster Alliance’, GMIT in partnership with Letterkenny IT and IT Sligo will be lodging an application for university status.

The CUA’s vision is to become “an internationally focused learning and knowledge-producing organisation; intimately engaged with our students, users and stakeholders on and off our network of regional campuses; entrepreneurial and flexible, and stakeholder-centred in outlook and behaviour across all our functions; and collaborative with a variety of academic and public and private sector enterprises, locally and internationally”.

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