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Watchdog expresses concerns over Taaffe’s building

Stephen Corrigan



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.


Footfall down by 80% in Galway city centre

Stephen Corrigan



Shop Street on Ladies Day of the Galway Races

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Footfall in the city centre was down by about 80% during what would normally be a bumper three weeks in the city, with this year’s Arts Festival and Summer Racing Festival both falling foul of Covid-19 restrictions.

Data compiled by the Galway City Business Association (GCBA) – which is a measure of mobile phone users at various points in the city centre – shows that there were over half a million fewer movements recorded during Race Week this year, representing around a 77% decline on the same week in 2019.

While the figures are by no means a conclusive count of individuals in the city, they do provide a good guide as to how many people are traversing the main thoroughfares over an extended period.

During the second week of the Arts Festival in 2019, just short of 900,000 movements were recorded in what was the city’s single busiest seven days of the year.

However, with the absence of the Big Top and various other Arts Festival venues this year, just over 150,000 movements were recorded in the same week this year.

Well-known city businessman and GCBA member Anthony Ryan said that the situation was gradually improving, but it was obviously a very different Race Week this year.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Galway City Council orders removal of new footbridge

Stephen Corrigan



From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The installation of a footbridge over the Middle River at Newtownsmyth has led Galway City Council to warn the adjacent property owner to remove the structure, or face legal proceedings.

Property developer John Curley, who owns the commercial unit involved at Abhainn na mBradán, has received instruction from City Hall to have the bridge removed by today (Friday) in what the Galway City Tribune understands is being treated as a ‘extremely serious breach’ of planning regulations.

Mr Curley told this newspaper that the €25,000 bridge could not be removed this week as his architect was on holidays, and he was still considering what to do about the Council’s order.

Mr Curley said businessman Eric Furey had opened a new café in the building two weeks ago – the building also houses Born Clothing and Papa Rich restaurant.

The bridge had been installed to coincide with the opening of Roots Café and both Mr Curley and Mr Furey argued that it was crucial to the business’ survival that there was access from the busy canal walkway.

“We are going to fight this,” said Mr Curley, adding that it had been their intention to seek retention for the bridge, but that had been ruled out by city planners who refused to give permission to utilise public land on the far side of the canal.

A spokesperson for Galway City Council said: “Immediately on becoming aware of the installation of this structure across the canal, Galway City Council Planning Department requested the immediate removal of the structure.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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Anger over illegal parking of camper vans in Salthill

Enda Cunningham



Camper vans illegally parked on Rockbarton Road this week.

From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Galway City Council has admitted that it is difficult to enforce bylaws banning the parking of caravans and camper vans on roads in Salthill.

It follows complaints from elected representatives and local residents again this Summer in relation to illegal dumping and ‘unsightly’ parking on the Promenade and alongside Leisureland.

Under the Council’s own Parking Control Bylaws 2009, parking of ‘temporary dwellings’ (which includes caravans, mobile homes, tents and any structure whether on wheels or not) is prohibited on the Prom; Quincentennial Drive (behind Toft Carpark); Rockbarton Road (adjacent to Leisureland) and on the Western Distributor Road. Council carparks are also off limits.

Local area councillor Donal Lyons said the problem seemed to be worse this year, which he believed is due to holidaying staycationers.

Councillor Peter Keane said that it is a ‘small few’ people that are giving caravaners a bad name.

“We welcome holidaymakers, but let them go into the caravan parks where proper services are provided, such as electricity and water.”

A spokesperson for Galway City Council said that the local authority’s experience was that it has proved difficult to enforce the parking ban over the years.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read it in full, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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