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CITY TRIBUNE

Ring Road: Developer’s row over plan for compensatory grass

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The amount of ‘compensatory habitat’ being provided as part of proposals for the N6 Galway City Ring Road is excessive.

That’s according to a representative for McHugh Property Group, which owns over 100 acres of land in the Menlo area including Lackagh Quarry.

Senior Counsel Dermot Flanagan told the An Bord Pleanála oral hearing on the proposed €650 million road development that his clients believed proposals to use in-filled parts of the quarry to re-create calcareous grassland – a specific type of grass that grows in limestone areas – were unnecessary.

According to Mr Flanagan, evidence submitted to the hearing by ecologist for the GCRR project, Aebhín Cawley, indicated that 0.25ha of calcareous grasslands would be lost to the road, but 7.14ha of compensatory land was to be provided as part of mitigation measures (for habitats which would be ‘lost’ to the ring road).

Furthermore, he said Ms Cawley had stated that the ratio of compensatory lands should be one-to-one or greater – adding that what was being proposed was far in excess of this.

Ms Cawley said she wished to clarify that the “bare minimum” of off-setting for lands lost should be one for one, but that it should be greater – and that they were also including for the limestone pavement being lost.

A large proportion of the limestone pavement on the eastern side of the new ring road was situated in a European Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a tunnel near Lackagh Quarry has been included to avoid impacting the protected landscape.

There are a number of areas of limestone pavement not included in the SAC, but do have Annex 1 status meaning it was a habitat of significance, although does not have the same protected status of a SAC.

Ms Cawley said there would be an inability to replace the limestone pavement lost in these areas if the proposed road were to go ahead and so they had made provision to provide additional compensatory areas – providing like for like and then adding to it.

Mr Flanagan said the ratio was extraordinarily above what was required and put it to Ms Cawley that it was simply the case that the opportunity to provide this grassland had arisen due to the in-filling of Lackagh Quarry.

However, Ms Cawley said there were in fact two areas of Lackagh quarry where there would be no material deposits in-filled that were proposed for replacement grasslands.

Mr Flanagan said both he and his clients agreed with Galway County Council – the lead authority on the GCRR project – that adequate limestone pavement had been protected within the SAC, but said there was adequate replacement grasslands being provided in areas outside Lackagh Quarry.

He said his clients had proposed alternate sites for use to replace the grasslands lost, but these had been rejected by the Council.

Mr Flanagan said that lands in the ownership of Galway City Council were suitable for this purpose and so the requirement to issue a Compulsory Acquisition Order on Lackagh Quarry could be avoided.

Ms Cawley said the lands proposed by Mr Flanagan’s clients were not suitable for recreating the habitats required.

On the purpose of these lands after works had been complete, Mr Flanagan questioned if they would be used for agricultural grazing, as recreational facilities, or as some other public amenity.

Ms Cawley confirmed that there would be no public access to the lands after construction.

Meanwhile, Mr Flanagan sought clarification that over three hectares of his client’s lands that were earmarked for use as a site compound would only be subject to a temporary acquisition and would be returned to its original owner once construction was completed.

A spokesperson for project designers ARUP confirmed that it would be reinstated and returned once the Ring Road was completed.

CITY TRIBUNE

Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
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.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
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.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council needs 40 more workers to help deliver on projects

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Forty more workers are needed at City Hall ‘right away’, the Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said.

Brendan McGrath has warned city councillors that the local authority is understaffed and it needs to hire more staff immediately to deliver its plans and projects.

The total cost of the extra 40 workers, including salary, would be between €1.75 million and €1.95 million.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council had a workforce now that was below what it had in 2007, but the city’s population has grown and so too had the services the Council provides.

The population of Galway City grew by almost 11% in the 10 years to 2016, he said, and total staff numbers in the Council fell by 13.6% during that period.

Though more staff were hired in recent years, Mr McGrath said that the Council was at 2007 and 2008 staffing levels, even though the Census will record further increases in population since 2016.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council now provides 1,000 services across a range of departments, far more than during the 2000s.

He said that currently, 524 staff are employed at the City Council. This equated to 493 Whole Time Equivalents when part-time workers such as school wardens and Town Hall workers are included.

Mr McGrath said that 12% of all staff are in acting up positions, with many more in short-term or fixed-term contracts. There was a highly competitive jobs market and the Council was finding recruitment and retention of specialist staff difficult.
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.

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