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West’s infrastructure not fit for purpose

Enda Cunningham

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Government and European funding is urgently required in the West to bring roads, environmental and broadband infrastructure up to standard, according to business group Ibec.

The group has branded infrastructure here “not fit for purpose” and warned that without investment, regional economic imbalance will continue.

Ibec’s West Regional Director John Brennan said that essential roads projects need to be completed if jobs are to be created on a large scale.

“We now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to avail of really low interest rates to deliver an ambitious capital investment plan for the West Region.

“For the West region to deliver on its growth potential, it needs world class infrastructure. Our current road, environmental and broadband infrastructure is either not fit for purpose or inadequate to meet future demand,” he said.

Meanwhile, Galway-based Independent TD Mick Fitzmaurice is to begin a campaign next month to secure funding for the West from Europe.

Deputy Fitzmaurice said he agreed with Mr Brennan that “much of the essential infrastructure in the West of Ireland is not fit for purpose”.

“This is something that I have been pointing out for some time. The problems stem from a decision by the Government to remove the core funding status towards the West of Ireland in 2011.

“This was core funding from Europe which provided up to 40% towards essential infrastructure such as roads, rail links, broadband, and water and sewage services.

“However, the then Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar and the Government changed their policy in that regard in 2011.

“I will be going to Europe in October to lobby to have that funding model resumed for the Western Region.

“The infrastructure in the Western region now must be brought up to an acceptable standard and there is ‘TEN-T’ funding (Trans-European Transport Networks including road, rail, air and water) that can help in that regard,” said Deputy Fitzmaurice.

Ibec have now called on the Government to introduce an ‘ambitious’ capital investment programme in next month’s Budget.

“Businesses in the West are clearly beginning to feel the benefits of economic recovery but many remain constrained by significant infrastructure gaps.

“Very little capital investment has been delivered to the region over the past seven years and we are now playing catch-up. If we invest wisely now and deliver much needed infrastructure, the region will benefit for many years to come and business will create more jobs.”

The business group has said that roads projects need to be prioritised for completion over the next five years, including the completion of the Tuam to Gort M17/M18 motorway, the proposed N6 Galway outer bypass and identified the improvement of the N17 from Galway to Sligo as a ‘medium-term’ priority.

Other major infrastructure needs identified by Ibec include upgrades to the water and waste water networks.

“Broadband also remains a key infrastructure gap and requires public funding to deliver the essential infrastructure to those locations for which it is uneconomic for the private sector to do so.

“Now is the time to invest ambitiously and businesses in the West are calling on Government to provide funding for a number of key infrastructure projects in the region which will ultimately ensure a handsome return for the state through the benefits of business, social and employment prosperity,” said Mr Brennan.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site

Dara Bradley

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An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.

The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.

It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.

In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.

“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”

The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.

A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.

A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.

It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.

Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.

The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.

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CITY TRIBUNE

NUIG student accommodation firm records loss

Enda Cunningham

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The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.

However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.

Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.

The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.

Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.

The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.

Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.

Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.

The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).

The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.

It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.

As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.

It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.

In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan

Dara Bradley

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Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.

Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.

The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.

It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.

Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.

Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.

“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”

The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.

He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.

“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.

“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.

“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.

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