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CITY TRIBUNE

Tackle Galway’s congestion by building city houses

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Ever-growing congestion on Galway City’s roads over recent years has led many commentators to argue strongly for more new construction – to advocate an increase in the capacity on city roads commuter routes and for an N6 Outer Bypass, the latter again with An Bord Pleanála.

BY DERRICK HAMBLETON

The bypass was the option first advocated by Buchanan & Partners more than 20 years ago, until a judgement in the European Courts of Justice in 2015 put a halt to that particular whizz of a plan.

Unfortunately for Irish taxpayers, the promoters of this ‘roads-based solution’ did not heed the warning signs.

So even now, ‘the let’s just have more roads as a solution’ lobby are again pushing for a new alternative, which is to be an expensive €650m, now so-called Inner Ring Road, which has again been submitted for consideration by the now under-resourced Planning Board!

This environmentally and socially damaging project simply cannot be justified, with 35% of car traffic actually crossing the river, only 3% of that traffic wanting to bypass the city.

Yet I do believe that our main commuter routes do need upgrading. It is unarguable that the N59, N83, R339 and R338 – which carry so much traffic into the city from county areas – have not been upgraded in years!

However, we need to remember that the Paris Agreement on climate change now has legal effect.

Then, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published an alarming special report, it came with both good news and bad for Galway. The good news is that the carbon budget for staying under 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming is larger than we thought, so we have a bit more time to act. The bad news is that the consequences of overshooting that threshold are very, very bad.

The catastrophes that we once believed would be triggered by only 2 degrees of warming are likely to occur at this lower threshold, including widespread collapse of food yields and extreme levels of human displacement.

For example, people may soon have to be moved away from living in areas such as in Galway City that are likely to flood. We can all remember the trauma caused to farming families and city residents from the flooding in November 2009, in January 2014, November 2015 and again in February 2018.

The design, construction and management of roads, parking and other related facilities as well as the design and regulation of vehicles is known to cause significant damage to forests, prairies, streams and wetlands.

Besides the direct habitat loss due to the road itself, and the road-kill of animal species, roads alter water-flow patterns, increase noise, water, and air pollution, and create disturbance that alters the species composition of nearby vegetation, thereby reducing habitat for local native animals, and act as barriers to animal movements.

In the case of the N6 Ring Road, it would mean the displacement of 44 families from their homes with a further 10 houses rendered uninhabitable, as well as the demolition of two industrial properties and the loss of two industrial complexes.

Yet the roads transport lobby, which accounts for in excess of 19.8% of this pollution, presses on with more of their unsustainable plans.

Some would argue that the building of another new motorway will have the effect of promoting more car use, not less. This will be Galway’s continuing contribution to species extinction, and exacerbates our own contribution to climate change.

Unfortunately, the number of cars using a spiders web of commuter routes into the city is ultimately proportional to the capacity of the network. Building yet more roads simply makes it possible for more cars to be poured into any chosen route, which itself encourages more people to live in less expensive locations outside of Galway City, but from where a daily commute is required. Eventually, when capacity is reached, people will just start clamouring again for yet more new roads (the M50 effect).

This intensity of car use has been building in Galway since the early 80s, when the last new bridge was built crossing the River Corrib, (the 1985 Quincentenary Bridge).

The populations of large towns in counties within an hour’s drive of Galway have also increased far more rapidly over the past two decades than in almost any other, with yet more external population growth predicted before 2040, we are told.

The only sustainable long-term solution to congestion, and to reduce use of cars, is for people to live close enough to their place of work that they can either walk, cycle or avail of high-frequency public transport.

Yet the IDA seem powerless to promote enough new industry into county areas, and Galway city centre itself has seen very few houses built in recent times, as compared to those larger numbers being constructed in all areas out into the county.

In large peripheral areas such as we have in county Galway where housing is highly dispersed, it is simply not possible to effectively locate employment to facilitate shorter commutes. The only viable solution is to concentrate new housing nearer to growing business centres, hence in Galway City we are to have workers living in Ardaun, perhaps servicing Parkmore. But when construction is actually going to begin there, no one yet knows?

There is still plenty of vacant land available within Galway City itself. I was told in 2014 that undeveloped land zoned for residential use in the Galway City Development Plan 2011-2017 is c299 hectares (739 acres), but for various reasons it has never been made available for construction.

Landowners and developers frequently argue, with little justification that high costs mean it is not possible to service land, build according to strict conditions and still provide affordable homes of the type that families want to live in. In the meantime, it has remained viable to service land and construct homes in more distant locations – but only as long as the State continues to foot the bill for the enhanced road network that makes living in out of the way areas feasible.

Then, as we are constantly being told by opponents of light rail, a Gluas-type tram transit in Galway is unachievable, whereas all over Europe governments have learned that ‘higher density’ housing makes tram systems economically viable. As the premium now being charged on houses built near the Luas in Dublin clearly shows.

The luckless N6 Ring Road application is again submitted to An Bord Pleanala. Meanwhile Ceannt Station, the harbour lands and at Dyke Road sites are all listed for regeneration, each having been subject to much speculation since 2002, when potential for port relocation first became news.

Brendan McGrath, City Council Chief Executive, recently said when talking about the appointment of consultants to draw up a ‘Public Realm Strategy’. Much will depend on the outcome of plans to extend the Port and the development of the N6 Ring Road, as the bypass is now called.

We are left to wonder when we will see more of the housing the city needs actually built? The Government’s new National Regeneration and Development Agency (NRDA) and even newer LDA, Land Development Agency, are already sniffing around the city with the notion of buying lands for housing on public lands.

The current congestion problems being experienced in Galway are what results when the State leaves the development of homes to the private market. While the Government is left to take care of funding the building of roads to service them, the costs to the State have just been shifted from the left pocket to the right, while the long-term commuting problems of all who live in scattered development have multiplied.

The State’s new Land Development Agency should intervene, to allow more people live within the newly extended ‘Galway Metropolitan Area’, which is being extended to include Barna and Oranmore.

Perhaps use regeneration lands available at Ceannt Station as well as on Galway Port’s underutilised lands, instead of forcing workers into unsustainable commutes, with many workers still having to drive in from surrounding counties.

The funding for subsidies to construct housing, to improve public transport such as providing Light Rail or, to provide better public transport services to activate potential building land, could easily be provided by diverting the vast sums of money that would otherwise be spent on building and maintaining this environmentally damaging, additional N6 Ring Road space.

This I believe is the most sustainable solution, and one that in the long term will give the best quality of life option for the largest number of people living in Galway.

■ Derrick Hambleton is Chairman of An Taisce – Galway and wrote this article in a personal capacity.

CITY TRIBUNE

Council to consider new pedestrian ‘plaza’ for Galway City

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Councillors will be asked next month to consider a sweeping overhaul of traffic flow in the city centre as the local authority seeks to create a more pedestrian-friendly core in the wake of Covid-19.

Currently under proposal in City Hall are major alterations to traffic flow which will allow for restricted car access to Middle Street – creating additional outdoor seating space for businesses in the area struggling to cope amid social distancing requirements.

Senior Engineer at City Hall, Uinsinn Finn, said they are currently considering three different proposals to alter traffic flow on Merchants Road, Augustine Street and Flood Street to reduce the need for car access to Middle Street, while still maintaining access for residents.

“We already pedestrianised Cross Street and we will be maintaining that, and there will be a proposal for Middle Street and Augustine Street.

“Businesses in the area are very much in favour of pedestrianisation – one business has objections but the others are supportive. Another consideration is that there are residents there with parking spaces and we are trying to encourage people to live in the city centre,” said Mr Finn.

The Latin Quarter business group submitted proposals for the temporary pedestrianisation of Middle Street and Abbeygate Street Lower but Mr Finn said the proposals the Council were considering were more in the line of creating adequate space for pedestrians while still allowing residents vehicular access.

This would involve creating a circuit for car traffic moving through Merchants Road around onto Augustine Street and exiting at Flood Street.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Residents want laneway closed following pipe bomb scare

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Residents in part of Knocknacarra are calling for the closure of a laneway and for more Community Gardaí to be put on the beat following the discovery of a ‘viable’ pipe-bomb type device in the area last weekend.

Up to 13 homes in the Cimín Mór and Manor Court estates had to be evacuated on Friday evening last when the incendiary device was discovered by Gardaí concealed in an unlit laneway, leading to the emergency services being notified.

An Army EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) unit was called to the scene and removed the device – according to local residents and councillors, the Gardaí have confirmed that the device was viable.

Gardaí have declined to comment on the detail of the case but have confirmed that the matter is being ‘actively and vigorously investigated’.

Chairman of the Cimín Mór Residents’ Association, Pat McCarthy, told the Galway City Tribune that the discovery of the viable device on the narrow laneway that links their estate to Manor Court was extremely frightening for all concerned.

“For the best part of the past 20 years, we have been seeking action to be taken on this laneway which has been used for dumping and unsociable behaviour on a repeated basis.

“But what happened last Friday evening was really the last straw for us. This could have resulted in serious injury to innocent people and what is also of concern to us is how close this was to the two schools in the area,” said Mr McCarthy.

He said that over the coming days, the residents’ association would be petitioning all residents in the three estates concerned – the other two being Manor Court and Garraí Dhónaill – for action to be taken on the laneway.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway designer’s necklace is fit for a princess!

Denise McNamara

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Kate Middleton wearing the necklace designed by Aisling O'Brien

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A Galway jewellery designer is the latest to experience the ‘Kate effect’ after fans tracked down the woman who created a necklace for the Duchess of Cambridge which she has worn several times since it was gifted to her during her trip to the city last March.

Aisling O’Brien’s website crashed on Wednesday night when orders poured in for the piece from around the world. The necklace costs €109 with initials, while the earrings retail for €49.

“I’d never sold more than two things outside of Ireland before. I only had three of Kate’s necklaces in stock – and now I have orders for at least 50. I’ll have to start recruiting some elves,” laughs Aisling, who only set up her website during lockdown.

The 14-carat gold necklace and earrings set was designed by Aisling specially for Kate after examining her style – “understated, elegant, simplicity” is how the Tuam native describes it.

She was contacted about the commission by physiotherapist Thérèse Tully, who wanted to give the future queen a gift as she was using her room to change at Árus Bóthar na Trá beside Pearse Stadium when the royal couple were meeting with GAA teams.

(Photo: Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton wearing the necklace)
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the full details, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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