The shortage of accommodation in Galway has passed crisis point, according to a TD who has called for sweeping changes to the planning system.
With hundreds of people often enquiring about a single house advertised for rent, the squeeze on available properties threatens to hinder the city’s economic progress, according to Galway West TD Noel Grealish.
He said the shortage of available places to stay also posed a huge problem for the more than 25,000 students returning to college at NUI Galway and GMIT in the coming weeks.
Now, he is calling on the Government to set up a task force to tackle the problem, and bring in new measures to fast-track the planning process for the construction of new houses.
Deputy Grealish warned that unless something is done to increase the supply of accommodation generally in Galway, the city could soon start to suffer in terms of its ability to attract inward investment and jobs.
“This will have knock-on effects, there is no doubt about that. It will impact on Galway’s ability to attract international companies if the workers they would hope to employ can’t find a place to live.
“At the moment, once a place goes on the market for rent, you could have hundreds of people enquiring about that single property,” he said.
Deputy Grealish said that the coming weeks would see the shortage of accommodation brought into sharp focus with thousands of students returning to or starting college.
“I am aware that NUI Galway has been ringing auctioneers, even looking for commercial buildings, to see can they be converted into student accommodation,” he revealed.
And in the Merlin Park area, Gleann na Rí, a complex that was purpose-built to cater for students attending GMIT, was now being let out to non-students as the ten-year tax break facilitating its availability to students was at an end.
“This is a complex with 220 apartments in it, that had housed an average of 2-3 students – that means there’s less accommodation for up to 600 students in the coming academic year,” said Deputy Grealish.
“The whole situation has gone beyond a crisis.”
For more on the city’s accommodation crisis, see this week’s Galway City Tribune
State to look at plan to protect historic monastic ruins
Officials from the Office of Public Works have confirmed that they will visit what is widely regarded as the most complete Franciscan monastic ruins in Ireland to see what works are required to save it.
And a local public representative has said that he does not want to be part of a generation that allowed Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary to fall into worse disrepair.
Correspondence sent this week to those who diligently look after the friary has suggested that the OPW’s Head of Historic Properties will come down to establish what emergency works are required.
This follows the recent visit by the Minister for the Office of Public Works Patrick O’Donovan to Ross Errilly Franciscan Friary which dates well back before the 1400s and requires urgent works to be carried out.
Cllr Andrew Reddington (FG) said: “It would be an absolute disgrace if we were the generation that allowed this friary to deteriorate even further.”
It was explained to the Minister while visiting the Abbey that it is in desperate need of emergency works and it was essential that the Minister brought this back to his department.
He was informed that it was around the late 1980s when there was any major works carried out on the abbey by the OPW.
“The abbey needs remedial work urgently as it is falling into disrepair and the main area of concern is the tower.
“There has never been any serious remedial work done on the tower and there has never been scaffolding put up around the outside of it to deal with the exterior of the tower,” Cllr Reddington told The Connacht Tribune.
A local group who met with the Minister explained that there is no electricity at the abbey or any toilet facilities for visiting tourists.
He was informed that the nearest electrical pole is only 200m away, so it wouldn’t be difficult to get electricity to the abbey.
The abbey, he was told, needs electricity which would then mean there would be options in terms of security lighting and closed-circuit television to prevent any vandalism taking place.
Those who look after the Franciscan Friary – including Glen Corbett and former Galway footballer Seamus McHugh – gave a detailed run down of emergency works that need to happen at the abbey.
They said that it was critical that emergency works start as soon as possible to protect the abbey for future generations.
The Minister committed to working with the group on this. The delegation than joined OPW officials and Finna Construction who gave them a tour of the OPW offices in Headford which benefited from a €5 million investment.
This week came the commitment that the OPW would visit the friary to establish the emergency works that need to prioritisation.
(Photo: Seamus McHugh, Minister Patrick O’Donovan, Glen Corbett and Cllr Andrew Reddington at Ross Errilly Franciscian Friary in Headford)
Gardaí issue alert over fuel thefts
Householders, farmers and truckers in the West of Ireland have been advised to put security measures in place to protect their fuel tanks, following a number of thefts over the past month.
While the thefts aren’t an everyday occurrence, Gardaí have advised that with fuel prices likely to remain high over the coming months, basic security precautions should be put in place.
Galway is one of a number of counties where fuel thefts have occurred over recent weeks with home heating oil, trucks and farm diesel in different parts of the country targeted by the thieves.
Sergeant Michael Walsh, Galway Garda Crime Prevention Officer, said that while the number of thefts reported in Galway had been quite small, fuel thievery was still an ongoing problem.
He said that some of the precautions recommended included a secure fencing off, of outdoor fuel tanks with good quality perimeter fencing.
“Fuel tanks that are located away from houses or offices are most at risk and in these situations, robust perimeter fencing, and gates need to be properly secured.
“We are also recommending that people and businesses consider installing alarms, anti-siphoning devices, security lighting and CCTV cameras,” said Sergeant Walsh.
He added that fuel thieves often used small drill and syphoning pump to steal the fuel with the whole operation completed in a matter of minutes.
Last month in Limerick, thieves stole an estimated €500 worth of diesel from trucks parked overnight in a business park – large trucks and artics can have a fuel capacity of over 100 gallons.
“As with a lot of robberies, fuel thieves will tend to pick out the opportunist targets. Fuel is a valuable commodity and basic security measures need to be put in place,” said Sergeant Walsh.
Where businesses have multiple users of their fuel tanks, the Gardaí also advise that a fuel management system should be put in place to record the users as well as the dates and times when they access the supply.
Housing plan turned down over lack of pedestrian access
The lack of a pedestrian connection to the town centre was listed as one of the reasons why a development of almost 40 houses has been turned down in Ballinasloe.
The proposed development at Poolboy would have been adjacent to an existing housing estate – but planners cited the lack of connectivity to the town centre as a reason why it was refusing the application.
The plans outlined the provision of a mix of three-bedroom detached and semi-detached houses along with 20 townhouses as part of the 38 unit development.
They were submitted by Crownbell Limited, which is based in Clarinbridge, and sought a connection to the existing access road serving the Cuil na Canalacht estate which was granted permission back in 2012.
However, Galway County Council refused planning on the grounds that the proposed development did not provide sufficient pedestrian access to the wider urban area of Ballinasloe.
They said that to grant planning would pose an intensified risk to the safety of pedestrians and other road users and lead to “unsustainable mobility patterns” in the immediate area.
It was stated that the development would be prejudicial to public safety and contravene the sustainable transport policy objectives of the Galway County Development Plan.
Furthermore, planners said that the site was in an area that is zoned open space recreation and amenity in the Ballinasloe Local Area Plan.
They said that this seeks to protect and enhance such areas for exercise facilities, sports grounds and playing fields and to grant planning would set an undesirable precedent.
Given the site’s location to the River Suck, the applicants submitted an environmental impact assessment and screening report. The development would be around 300 yards from the River Suck Callows.
It was proposed that the development would connect to the existing sewer scheme, and it was stated in a submission that it would not overly burden the system.
However, it was a lack of pedestrian access from the site into the town centre which eventually scuppered the proposed development plan.