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CITY TRIBUNE

Watchdog expresses concerns over Taaffe’s building

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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.

CITY TRIBUNE

Mercury hit 30°C for Galway City’s hottest day in 45 years

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –

Wednesday was the hottest day in the city over the past 45 years when with a high of 30.1 Celsius being recorded at the NUI Galway Weather Station.

The highest temperature ever recorded in the city dates back to June 30, 1976, when the late Frank Gaffney had a reading of 30.5° Celsius at his weather station in Newcastle.

Pharmacists and doctors have reported a surge in people seeking treatment for sunburn.

A Status Yellow ‘high temperature warning’ from Met Éireann – issued on Tuesday – remains in place for Galway and the rest of the country until 9am on Saturday morning.

It will be even hotter in the North Midlands, where a Status Orange temperature warning is in place.

One of the more uncomfortable aspects of our current heatwave has been the above average night-time temperatures and the high humidity levels – presenting sleeping difficulties for a lot of people.
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

Property Tax hike voted down in Galway City

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A proposal to boost Galway City Council coffers by half a million euro every year by increasing Local Property Tax (LPT) did not receive the support of city councillors.

Councillor Peter Keane (FF) failed to get a seconder at this week’s local authority meeting for his motion to increase the LPT payable on Galway City houses by 5%.

Cllr Keane said that the increase would net the Council €500,000 every year, which could be spent evenly on services across all three electoral wards.

It would be used to fund services and projects city councillors are always looking for, including a proposal by his colleague Cllr Imelda Byrne for the local authority to hire additional staff for city parks.

The cost to the taxpayer – or property owner – would be minimal, he insisted.

“It would mean that 90% of households would pay 37 cent extra per week,” he said.

Not one of the 17 other elected members, including four party colleagues, would second his motion and so it fell.

Another motion recommending no change in the current rate of LPT in 2022 was passed by a majority.
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

Galway City Council needs 40 more workers to help deliver on projects

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune –  Forty more workers are needed at City Hall ‘right away’, the Chief Executive of Galway City Council has said.

Brendan McGrath has warned city councillors that the local authority is understaffed and it needs to hire more staff immediately to deliver its plans and projects.

The total cost of the extra 40 workers, including salary, would be between €1.75 million and €1.95 million.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council had a workforce now that was below what it had in 2007, but the city’s population has grown and so too had the services the Council provides.

The population of Galway City grew by almost 11% in the 10 years to 2016, he said, and total staff numbers in the Council fell by 13.6% during that period.

Though more staff were hired in recent years, Mr McGrath said that the Council was at 2007 and 2008 staffing levels, even though the Census will record further increases in population since 2016.

Mr McGrath said that the City Council now provides 1,000 services across a range of departments, far more than during the 2000s.

He said that currently, 524 staff are employed at the City Council. This equated to 493 Whole Time Equivalents when part-time workers such as school wardens and Town Hall workers are included.

Mr McGrath said that 12% of all staff are in acting up positions, with many more in short-term or fixed-term contracts. There was a highly competitive jobs market and the Council was finding recruitment and retention of specialist staff difficult.
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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