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Taoiseach ‘will pursue’ funding for Newcastle community centre



Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the Government will pursue a funding model with Galway City Council to construct a proposed €3.8 million community centre for Newcastle.
In the Dáil last week, Mr Martin praised the Newcastle Combined Community Association and its chair, Seamus Davey, for their vision “to provide a first-class facility for their community”.
Planning permission was secured last year for a two-storey community centre adjacent to Croí House on Moyola Lane, which will also include a children’s playground, all-weather pitch and a sensory garden.
Locals raised more than €200,000 to get the project through the planning stage, and the City Council has since committed to provide €900,000 in funding, leaving a shortfall of €2.9m for construction.
The matter was raised by Galway West TD Noel Grealish in the Dáil, who said there are grants for nearly all sporting organisations through the sports capital programme and the large-scale sports infrastructure fund, but community centres seemed to fall outside any State support scheme.
He said there has long been a need for such a centre in Newcastle, an area where locals have been campaigning for 30 years and which has a population of more than 6,000 people.
“The project is now shovel-ready and awaiting funding to commence construction. It has the unanimous support of Galway City Council. The council will commit a minimum of €900,000 towards the €3.8 million building cost of the project. That leaves a shortfall of €2.9 million.
“There has long been a need for such a facility in the Newcastle and neighbouring Dangan areas, especially since the only hotel in the area, a focal point for the community, closed in recent years. It was demolished to make way for student accommodation.
“Bear in mind that the population of the area in question is similar to that of towns such as Ballinasloe, Fermoy, Westport and Roscommon that are well serviced with such facilities.
“I have been working with the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O’Brien, for the past number of months but he tells me there is no funding available for such a project. I know there are many demands on public funds, but will the Taoiseach give a commitment to set up a community centre fund that will provide financial support to the likes of the Newcastle Combined Community Association in order that it can build the much-needed community centre in question?
“I ask that something be done in the short term, not the long term. Do not kick this ball down the road. This area needs a community centre, as do, I am sure, many other areas throughout the country. I welcome the grant that was introduced during the pandemic, which was used to refurbish and repair many community centres.
“Why not make this a pilot project? Will the Taoiseach come back to the House in the short term with sort of proposal to allow us to build this much-needed facility?” asked Deputy Grealish.
The Taoiseach said there should be a capital fund for community centres and commended Deputy Grealish for “an audacious move” to secure a pilot project for Newcastle.
“I will talk to the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Humphreys, and the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Deputy Darragh O’Brien, again to see what we can do in conjunction with the local authority and to discover whether we can provide some supports for what has clearly been a project developed, from the ground, up by the community in Newcastle.
“The community activists and leaders there really have the vision to provide a first-class facility for their community.
“I will certainly pursue that with the Ministers involved to see whether, in conjunction with the local authority, we can do more to make sure that what is a shovel-ready project can actually be brought to fruition,” said Mr Martin.


Zoning for houses ‘could impact Galway City Ring Road plan’



Councillors have voted to rezone farming land in Rahoon to allow for houses to be developed, against the advice of planners who warned it could impact on the planned Galway City Ring Road.

The Office of Planning Regulator and Chief Executive of Galway City Council both advised elected members not to change the zoning use from agricultural to residential on the 2.842-hectare (7-acre) site. But it was passed with 14 in favour, three against and one absent.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind), who proposed the motion, said there was a need for more land to be zoned residential to facilitate the growth in population of 40,000 over the next 18 years. Cllr Noel Larkin seconded his proposal.

Brendan McGrath, the Chief Executive, said there was “no requirement to rezone additional land for residential purposes to meet the needs of the targeted population increase up to 2029”.

He said there was sufficient zoned land available to enable development.

The OPR said voting to change the zoning represented a piecemeal approach to planning and was inconsistent with national and regional policy.

“It is also considered that the proposed rezoning could prejudice the strategic future optimal use of these lands in the longer term. With regard to impact on the objective for the N6 Galway City Ring Road Scheme (GCRR), all development has to take cognisance of the objective for the N6 GCRR.

“It is also noted that the draft plan includes that the objective for the N6 GCRR has priority over all land use zoning objectives which is considered to provide sufficient protection to safeguard the scheme objective,” Mr McGrath said.

The National Transport Authority said this rezoning should not be allowed as it is likely to lead to development that was “wholly car-dependent and contrary to national and regional objectives”.

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Cash-strapped students targeted by drug dealers, policing meeting hears



Cash-strapped students in Galway are being targeted by drug lords to act as money mules, a city councillor has warned.

Cllr Alan Cheevers (FF) made the remarks at a public meeting of the City Joint Policing Committee (JPC) and said that the €667,000 worth of drugs seized by city gardaí in the first 10 months of the year “is only the tip of the iceberg”.

The meeting at the Connacht Hotel heard that some €45 million passed through the accounts of so-called money mules nationwide this year alone.

Cllr Cheevers said drug dealers were targeting young people in particular.

“They’re in the 18 to 24-year-old age bracket and college students are being targeted,” said Cllr Cheevers.

It was revealed that cocaine was by far the most common drug seized in Galway, making up over half of all the drugs detected – cocaine valued at €348,000 was seized in the 10 months to the end of October.

This was closely followed by cannabis, of which €260,000 worth was taken off the streets by gardaí, while the remainder of the total was made up by heroin, ecstasy and other illegal drugs.

Chief Superintendent Gerard Roche said the drugs problem was “unquantifiable” and promised that city gardaí were “attacking money laundering in a targeted and systematic way”.

Drugs were not only an urban problem but were a huge issue in county towns as well, he said, and all gardaí, from uniformed to armed response, were focused on the issue.

“Roads policing are taking a targeted role in tackling it as well,” said Chief Supt Roche.

“A new strategy is starting tomorrow,” he said at the meeting..

“Getting involved in being a money mule is a personal choice. We can warn and caution people against it.

“We can say so much but people continue to do things that are illegal,” he added.

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‘Furore’ over rezoning plan for access to B&B on Headford Road in Galway



From the Galway City Tribune – Councillors have voted to rezone a small section of Terryland Forest Park from recreational and amenity use to residential.

A majority of elected members also approved the insertion of a specific objective into the new Galway City Development Plan 2023-29 that would allow an entrance to the site through Sandyvale Lawn.

This was to facilitate safe access to a home and B&B business off Headford Road, which had become dangerous due to the recent changeover of Kirwan roundabout to a traffic lights junction.

Residents of Sandyvale Lawn, a 100+ housing estate off Headford Road, had objected to the proposals, and so too had Tuatha Terryland Forest Park, an alliance of volunteers and organisations.

The Office of Planning Regulator (OPR) and Chief Executive of Galway City Council, Brendan McGrath, as well as his planning department and recreational and amenity department, had all objected to the changes.

The rezoning, and insertion of a specific objective to facilitate an entrance to the estate, was contained in the same material alteration that came before councillors, but they were obliged to vote on them separately.

Several councillors argued that a new entrance to Sandyvale Lawn was necessary to facilitate safe access to a B&B on Headford Road.

This article first appeared in the print edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by subscribing to the Galway City Tribune HERE. A one-year digital subscription costs just €89.00. The print edition is in shops every Friday.

Cllr Mike Crowe (FF) said the family who owned this business and home had been treated poorly by the City Council during the reconfiguration of the Kirwan roundabout to a signalised junction.

Referencing the large opposition to the proposal, he said the “furore over this is astounding” and argued the impact on green space and the Sandyvale Lawn estate would be minimal.

Cllr Crowe said the proposal was about creating a safe exit and entrance.

Cllr Frank Fahy (FG) said there had been a number of near misses of cars coming in and out of the B&B, which were captured on video.

He said the current system, whereby an amber traffic light allows access to the B&B was “haphazard and dangerous”. He feared there would be a fatality if a new entrance was not approved.

“I don’t like to rezone RA [Recreational & Amenity] land but in this situation we don’t have a choice. We have to remedy a dangerous situation,” Cllr Fahy said.

Cllr Colette Connolly (Ind) said RA land was “absolutely sacrosanct” and she would not vote to rezone.

She asked what the legal position was regarding a rezoning of green space, which residents claimed had been paid for through a green levy applied 40 years ago when the estate was built.

Cllr Owen Hanley (Soc Dem) said he had voted initially to include the material alteration to support the B&B owners, as the removal of the roundabout had made access more dangerous for them.

But he said he would now support the residents of Sandyvale Lawn who had opposed the change.

Cllr Declan McDonnell said the family had lived there for 50 years and now it was more dangerous accessing their home through no fault of their own.

He said it was not safe that they have to enter and exit their home on an amber flashing light.

In a submission, residents of Sandyvale Lawn said the new entrance would negatively impact their estate, by increasing traffic, noise and an addition risk to children playing. They said it could be turned into another rat run like Ballinfoile and Tirellan. They also argued against the loss of green space.

Submissions also objected to the loss of the green space which was part of Terryland Forest Park, dubbed the ‘lungs of the city’.

Mr McGrath asked councillors not to rezone the land and not to insert the specific objective for a new entrance.

Both changes, however, were approved. The RA to R rezoning passed by a 12-5 vote and the specific objective for a new entrance passed by 11-5.

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