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CITY TRIBUNE

Top architect brands Galway as ‘dominated by cars’

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An internationally-renowned architect has said that Galway City is lacking vision and is dominated by cars, with motorists getting priority over pedestrians and cyclists.

In addition, Angela Brady, former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects and chairperson of the Royal Institutes of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), agreed that the authority most benefiting financially from car parking in the city should not be the same one investing in transport and urban planning.

“Walking around today, it was blatantly obvious that there was a conflict of interest. That needs to be separated – they should not be the same,” the presenter of TV show, Designing Ireland, said at the Galway Environmental Network’s (GEN) inaugural event in the Porter Shed on Saturday.

“If you allow car parking in the city centre, you will kill it. There are a lot of cities that have cut the amount of cars coming in, but it’s a matter of also increasing public transport in order for a city to work.

“I can be critical, because I don’t live here – this is a fantastic city, but it lacks vision,” she said, adding that the decisions about the future of Galway were not being made by those who would ultimately be affected by them – the people.

“To get this vision, you need to have a city architect with vision and a budget, with the roads engineer somewhere out here (well removed) because roads are killing this city, and killing its surroundings. There are much more important things than the 1960’s idea, where the city engineer ruled with no public consultation.

“You can make one or two bad decisions, and your city is finished, because people haven’t had a chance to have their say. You don’t not want to lose that chance of making Galway an absolutely vibrant and onward-moving city.

“The most successful cities are those that intensify, and don’t have ribbon development spread out, which brings all of the problems of traffic coming back in (to the centre) again. Traffic is a major problem here, I can see it as a pedestrian.”

Ms Brady pointed out that successful cities put pedestrians first. Galway was a car-dominated city, she said, with car parks using the best spaces.

“We have to play down the car, and have good public transport, good walkways, good cycle paths, good waterways – and use them.

“The harbour front is crying out for the right kind of development, the right type of urban structure but, in order to make a city great, you have to have your say as a member of the public, as a Galwegian, as somebody who is going to be affected by whatever decisions are made. The best cities are the ones that have got community consultation at the heart of every large decision that is made in their city. Without it, huge mistakes can be made, no matter what city you are talking about.

“We as professions, as clients, architects, or politicians cannot think that we know we will get something right, unless you ask the people who are the stakeholders – the residents, the public, the businesses – people make a city, and without their say, the city won’t work as well as it could, and it causes confrontation. You will get negativity when people haven’t had their say and I fear that in Galway there is not enough public consultation.”

Comparing Cork and Galway, Ms Brady said that the latter had turned its back on “the most beautiful waterfront.”

“It’s now time for change, to go and face the Atlantic, open up the waterfront, because water brings such life and joy to so many places.”

Referencing successful building projects in China, Scandinavia, and London, she said that, as architects, they must consider the social life of buildings, and any spaces in between.

On a project for Ballymore, a large Irish developer, on a site in the Isle of Dogs, East London, she was involved with designing 200 homes in a mixed-housing development. There were no cars allowed on site, and only a minimal number underground, with the strategy by the planners that only one-in-three homes had any car parking space in this development.

“Because they were beside public transport, there were very good policies to say: you don’t need a car,” she said.

Encouraging Mayor of Galway, Niall McNeilis, to start a no-car policy in Galway City Centre on a trial basis, she referenced the example shown in Clonakilty, Co Cork, which actually has its own Town Architect.

“This is a great success story, because the people have said: ‘We don’t want Astna Square to have cars parked all over it, how about we put people first’. The cars may pass, but a pedestrian has priority. Now, people go there, shops are thriving, people sit out in the square, as they would in Italy.

“They have festivals, where they close roads, and have the festivals where no cars go down, and they have a weekend of fun. It’s good for people’s souls, and the soul of the town.”

Ms Brady was one of a number of speakers at the Galway Environmental Network’s inaugural event last week, which was chaired by Daibhí MacDomhnaill, a Galway-native and a leading expert in urbanism in Ireland.

Other speakers included Frank Monahan, from Architecture on the Edge; Professor Kevin Leyden, Joint Director, Creative, Liveable and Sustainable Communities Research Cluster Leader, Whitaker Institute; Professor Ulf Strohmayer, Professor of Geography, NUI Galway; Patrick Faherty, Assistant Planning/Projects Officer, NUI Galway; and Rosie Webb, Senior Architect in Economic Development at Limerick City and County Council.

“The formation of the GEN, and its close links with Galway City and County Councils, the Galway City Community Network and many other established organisations will ensure that the environment in Galway now has a strong voice in the decision-making process at all levels,” said Caroline Kelly Stanley, best known for her work in promoting Merlin Woods.

■ To get involved with Galway Environmental Network, email galwayenvironmentalnetwork@gmail.com

CITY TRIBUNE

Residents call in the clampers to sort problem parking

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Residents in a Salthill estate have become tired of illegal parking outside their homes – and hired private clampers as a deterrent.

People living in Seamount off Threadneedle Road near Blackrock said they have been plagued by extra traffic and vehicles parking outside their homes, blocking access, during the latest Covid lockdown.

They said that since Galway City Council closed off the Prom to car parking, and closed the two public carparks, the cars have just migrated to Threadneedle Road and their estate.

Seamount is a private estate and the road has not been taken in charge by the Council. The residents have clubbed together and hired a clamping company, which will erect signs in the coming days and begin clamping illegally parked cars from next week.

Residents said they are also concerned that cars parked on Threadneedle Road are making it more difficult for buses to pass, and cause congestion.

A residents’ spokesperson said: “Since the lockdown, they closed off the Prom and closed off Salthill car park but people are still using the Prom and swimming off Blackrock. I have huge admiration for the swimmers, I do it myself when it’s warmer. But what’s happening is they park on both sides of Threadneedle Road, because there’re no yellow lines on either side of it and it’s not wide enough for cars to be parked either side of it, so buses are getting stuck.”
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

NUIG President’s upset at Covid breaches on campus

Enda Cunningham

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – “I work in the hospital and we have had a really awful six weeks. We have nowhere to sit down and have our breaks. We are exhausted and would long to see family and friends. To see public health guidelines [being flouted] on NUIG property is a kick in the teeth.”

These are the words of an angry and frustrated healthcare worker at University Hospital Galway in a message sent to the head of NUIG.

President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh told students and staff at the university this week that he found it “deeply frustrating” that some students were flouting public health guidelines.

The HSE has confirmed that there were at least 441 cases of Covid in the city’s 18-24 age group – which has affected 224 households – in the past three weeks.

“Our neighbours contacted me expressing their upset at what they see as activities by our students that do not respect the health and safety of the community at large. People who work in the health service, people who have lost friends and relations to Covid-19. I share their upset.

“I was struck, for example, by one particularly heartfelt message from a local healthcare worker and campus user who shared their frustration with me last week on seeing groups congregating and socialising on campus grounds and which they agreed we could share,” Prof Ó hÓgartaigh said.

The head of the university shared the message in an email to students and staff this week, adding that students had expressed frustration that study spaces were not open on campus and at the challenges posed by the constricted spaces in which they study.

NUIG confirmed to the Galway City Tribune this week that it had imposed sanctions on a number of students in relation to Covid breaches, while there have been none at GMIT.
This is a brief 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

Principals band together for safer cycling infrastructure

Denise McNamara

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A total of 28 Galway City school principals have signed an open letter to the Minister for Transport and local councillors highlighting the need for safer cycling infrastructure around schools, to encourage students and staff to switch to bikes.

The push by Government to cycle or walk where possible during the pandemic has its limitations in a city where cycle lanes are rare and parents are too afraid to let their children cycle on narrow roads often choked with traffic.

A group of cycling enthusiasts in city schools has been campaigning to encourage the school community to engage with Galway City Council’s public consultation process for the next development plan which will have a key role in deciding whether cycling lanes or off-road cycle routes become a reality.

The first stage of the initial consultation process for the ‘City Development Plan 2023-2029, Your City, Your Future’ closes today (Friday). But the process will continue for two more years with more consultation encouraged once the draft plan is published.

This week a letter from 28 principals sent to councillors called for support for the provision of better cycle infrastructure in and around all schools. It has also been sent to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan and Galway West TD and Minister of State at Cabinet, Hildegarde Naughton.

“It is our view that existing road infrastructure around schools can be unsafe for children, teachers, and families who wish to cycle to school and we would like to encourage the development safe cycling routes in the future,” the letter states.

Principal of Coláiste na Coiribe, Eoghan Ó Ceallaigh, said it was important for the school community to get involved with the public consultation.

(Photo: Last year, the Council introduced a ‘School Streets’ pilot scheme at Scoil Iognáid, which bans cans during certain times, encouraging parents and children to walk or cycle. Schools now want proper cycling infrastructure put in place).
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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