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Watchdog expresses concerns over Taaffe’s building



The Galway Association of environmental watchdog, An Taisce, has expressed concern over the status of the protected Taaffe’s shop site on William Street – with fears that its deterioration could lead to its eventual demolition.

The site, which was purchased by developer Gerry Barrett in 2006 for a reported €20 million, was earmarked to become an outlet for Spanish retail giant, Zara.

However, delays in securing planning permission and the economic downturn put paid to these plans and the premises have remained vacant since.

When an original planning application was granted for development of the unit, An Taisce appealed the decision to An Bord Pleanála – citing the local significance of the building.

The national planning body granted permission with several conditions – including the conservation of a protected structure and the preservation of its architectural integrity and heritage value.

Chairman of An Taisce’s Galway Association, Derrick Hambleton, said that there are now serious concerns that the building could become irreparable.

“An Taisce are taking the view that this is leading towards a situation where the building may be declared unsafe,” said Mr Hambleton.

Documents seen by the Galway City Tribune reveal that a report on the building was carried out in August 2017 by civil and structural engineers for Galway City Council.

It outlines the current state of the property including a wet-rot problem as a result of “high-moisture content” – in excess of the 20 per cent level at which timber is vulnerable to decay.

The building contains two cut-stone arches which have been deemed to hold considerable architectural importance.

The report questions the necessity for props which have been placed under said arches.

“It is unclear why these props have been provided because, based on visual inspection, the arch does not appear to be exhibiting signs of structural problems.

“…the effectiveness of the installed props in providing additional support to the arch is questionable based on the condition of the props and specifically their contact with the soffit of the arch.”

Steel beams are noted in the report as showing signs of “significant corrosion”.

While it states that the building is not, in its current condition, a “dangerous structure”, this conclusion comes with a caveat.

“Further damage could lead to the overall structural integrity of the building ultimately being compromised,” it warns.

Mr Hambleton believed that failure to protect the structure amounted to neglect on behalf of both the developer and Galway City Council.

“An Bord Pleanála has said that everything that can be preserved should be preserved – nobody is expecting the whole thing to be preserved but Bord Pleanála’s rulings should be observed.

“The City Council is not doing its job; and under the legislation, if a building is listed as protected, they have the legal authority to insist they repair that building and there are several stages that they can go through – eventually getting to the stage of a compulsory purchase order,” explained Mr Hambleton.

He said he had sought assurance from the Council in December of last year that they were protecting the building.

Correspondence from City Hall confirmed that an inventory of archaeological material and stones unlocked from the dismantling of the rear of the property was forwarded to the Council from the developer.

The Council have informed An Taisce that they have, as of March this year, requested that the developer provide an updated timescale for necessary works – outlining when the remaining planning conditions will be complied with.

An Bord Pleanála stipulated in their 2009 planning decision that all repairs should retain the maximum amount of joinery and plasterwork, while causing minimum interference to the building’s structure and fabric.

Mr Hambleton said that An Taisce wants to see these elements preserved and for the building to return to use – and called for immediate action to be taken to halt its decline.

He said that Taaffe’s was an integral part of Galway’s social history and that any future business to be based on the site could benefit from having these architectural styles dating as far back as the eighteenth century incorporated in their design.

“Taaffe’s shop is nothing really but it is important in its own way – it is worthy of recognition as part of our past,” said Mr Hambleton.


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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