Shopping centre tenants voice concerns over café proposal

The coffee shop building is proposed for the carpark of Westside Shopping Centre at the pedestrian entrance.

Galway City Council has sought clarification from the owners of Westside Shopping Centre on the exact number of parking spaces in the centre and their usage, following a proposal for a standalone café in the carpark.

A total of 11 of the tenants of the centre – including anchors Dunnes Stores – have raised concerns about the impact on parking and potential traffic hazards which the café would cause.

Hurley Property ICAV, an investment vehicle which owns several shopping centres around the country, had sought permission for the single storey building alongside the McDonalds drive-thru in the carpark.

The café would have seating for more than 70 customers, and would, according to the application, remove 27 spaces from the carpark.

According to the applicants, there are 290 parking spaces in the main carpark, and a further thirteen to the rear of the centre.

However, an observation lodged with the Council on behalf of Peter Murphy Electrical, St Anthony & Claddagh Credit Union, Newsweek, Hair Republic, Evergreen, McSharry’s Pharmacy, Divilly’s Butchers, Rose Garden restaurant and the RSA Driving Test Centre points out that there are, in fact, 266 spaces to the front of the centre.

The submission noted that during a survey of the carpark, there was 80% occupancy at off-peak, and that traffic congestion within the carpark, as well at the junction with Bóthar le Chéile, would be further compounded by the café.

Concerns were also raised about 43 parking spaces inside a rear yard gate which do not have planning permission and that pedestrians walking to and from the café would pose a serious health and safety risk.

“The addition of another food outlet would significantly reduce the ability of the existing food outlets to trade profitably.

“The placing of the café in the centre of the carpark would result in the view to the centre from Seamus Quirke Road being restricted,” the submission reads.

Dunnes Stores objected to the application on the grounds of loss of parking spaces, potential traffic hazard and visual impact.

Michael O’Hehir of O’Hehir’s Bakery objected on the grounds of parking provision and that the café could have a negative impact on the ability of the shopping centre to provide its primary function as a retail centre.

Susan Corbett of Corrib Park also submitted an objection to the Council due to the impact she believes the café would have on parking and the safe access to and exit from the shopping centre.

“A visit to the site at peak times will demonstrate that cars trying to egress the centre are backed up along Bóthar le Chéile and back into the shopping centre, while trying to get onto the Seamus Quirke Road. This currently affects traffic flow around the existing carpark and in this context, there is a significant concern that the proposed new building will further impact on traffic flow,” she wrote.

According the application, the proposal is to construct a single storey free-standing café “in keeping with the upgrading of the shopping centre site and the continuing need to keep the centre relevant to today’s consumers”.

The building will be located within the existing carpark area facing onto Seamus Quirke Road. The existing pedestrian access is to be maintained. The café will be constructed along the existing pathway with the main entrance to the café accessed off this path.

“The building will be constructed in the modern vernacular with an open floor plan. The ceiling will be high and full height glazing will give an open bright retail space.

“It is considered that the proposed development would support the ongoing operation of the existing district centre through the construction of a high-quality development that would broaden the existing offering on site,” the application reads.

The applicants have until the end of November to respond to the Council or the plans will be deemed withdrawn.

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