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CITY TRIBUNE

Time City Hall treats public with the respect it deserves

Dara Bradley

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Bradley Bytes – A sort of political column with Dara Bradley

The Transport Department at City Hall has developed a rather cavalier attitude to the public it is supposed to serve.

And it’s not just over residential parking permits, although that whole episode – which is not over yet – is indicative of a disconnect between officials and the public, and with public representatives.

That city councillors felt the need to call a special meeting and bring a Section 140 motion compelling the Chief Executive of the City Council, Brendan McGrath, to end the practice of refusing parking permits on the basis that people have driveways, says it all.

Section 140s are rarely used ‘nuclear’ options for elected members when they feel other efforts at solving issues are being frustrated.

The bould Brendan may be proved right in his assertion the motion was “invalid”, but to paraphrase Cllr Mike Crowe (FF), how did management let it come to this, by ignoring advice and the will of elected members?

The cavalier attitude is also evident in relation to legitimate questions. This newspaper asked recently whether the Council’s new bicycle parking infrastructure needed planning before being installed. A “stupid” question, apparently, according to a Council spokesperson. (For the record, no, they don’t require planning permission).

There was no certainty given either as to why certain locations for the bike infrastructure was chosen.

Bike racks are great and welcome and we need more, but are they part of a thought-through plan to encourage people out of their cars, or is the Council just plonking them anywhere there’s a bit of space, to placate the cycling lobby, as they plough on with the city’s bypass?

Here’s another example of the Transport Department treating the public with, to put it mildly, not a lot of respect.

It appears to be unofficial policy for some time now, that the Council no longer flags in advance roadworks, or road closures. There was a time when the travelling public was kept informed of any potential delays and disruption, but, alas, no more. Road works commenced at Upper Dominick Street on Monday, where there were lane closures at night to facilitate Gas Networks Ireland. The Council had to be prompted into confirming that letter drops took place to some businesses and residents last Friday – but the general public who use that street to traverse town, wasn’t informed.

Ditto at Headford Road inbound, where there were lanes closures and a closed bus lane at night to facilitate gas works. The closures had the potential to be quite dangerous for motorists approaching who are unaware of them.

This area “is non-residential”, the Council said, and so there were no leaflet drops but “Dunnes’ in Terryland were informed about the works”.

Asked why the public was kept in the dark, the Council said: “Lane closures are generally not advertised unless the works have the potential to cause significant disruption.”

Manners costs nothing, and neither does an advance press release to newspapers, or a social media posting, about impending traffic disruption, no matter how minor.

For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site

Dara Bradley

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An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.

The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.

It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.

In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.

“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”

The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.

A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.

A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.

It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.

Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.

The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.

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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG student accommodation firm records loss

Enda Cunningham

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The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.

However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.

Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.

The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.

Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.

The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.

Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.

Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.

The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).

The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.

It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.

As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.

It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.

In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan

Dara Bradley

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Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.

Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.

The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.

It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.

Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.

Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.

“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”

The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.

He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.

“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.

“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.

“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.

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